If you’re reading this, I did it.
Since my first week in the Marketing Office, I have been thinking about, living, breathing and working on the Opening Day Parade. Creating the 2017 parade began months in advance and was the culmination of dozens of people’s hard work, but then they gave me a clipboard and put me in charge (shocking, I know). Lucky for me, the parade is a well-oiled machine that has been refined into an exact science by interns and staff members before me. The Opening Day Parade is an important part of the Fair’s first day and it is an annual tradition for many Sedalians and Fairgoers. I was determined to create a parade that they, my boss and I could be proud of.
After two months of mailing, phone calls, organizing and preparation, August 10th was finally here. My summer-long countdown to corndogs had ended and it was Opening Day. Proudly sporting my yellow MSF polo and fancy badge, I was more ready than ever to get the parade started.
At 4 pm the interns and I arrived on State Fair Boulevard, where the madness unfolded instantly. The next two hours were some of the quickest of my life. The 80 entries I had spent the last weeks organizing were lining up in front of me. Sarah (my intern friend, driver and hype-woman) drove me up and down the route on our golf cart an infinite number of times as I tried my best to organize the lineup. Carolyn and the other volunteers from the Sedalia Chamber of Commerce were my saving graces as they helped each of the entries find their place on the street, stay hydrated and happy.
I’ve never ran a marathon (I’m an eater, not a runner), but I imagine this as close to that as I could ever get. The minutes were flying by, more people were arriving, I was sweating and stomping up and down the route, but to my surprise, everything was actually going as planned. Before I knew it, I was being shuffled to the front of the route where it was time to get the show started.
I had imagined myself, the eager little intern, giving the Highway Patrol officers the go-ahead to start the Opening Day Parade about a million times. I pictured myself holding my clipboard confidently, without a drop of sweat on me, telling Lieutenant Ahern it was go time. However, at 5:58, I was dripping in sweat, feet throbbing, and all I could scrape together was, “Oh heck, let’s just go for it.” And with that, the lineup started rolling across 16th Street and into the Fairgrounds.
I spent the next half hour with Sharon Kirchoff waving each entry into the Fairgrounds. Sharon is a pint-sized angel, bright and generous. She stood with me, thanked every single entry for coming and got them excited to experience the rest of the parade. I was exhausted, sunburned and coming down from all of the craziness, but Sharon made sure that I was able to stand back and watch all of my hard work finally come to life. I am so grateful that she was there to help me, and I know everyone else was too (she’s a crowd favorite).
My favorite part of the day was bringing up the rear end of the parade with Sharon and all of the interns who helped me through this summer. We were on our golf carts, dodging the big “gifts” left behind by the horses, waving at all of the fairgoers like we were some kind of intern royalty. And just as quickly as it all began, the parade was over.
People say it takes a village to raise a child. This parade was my child, and boy did it take a village to make it possible. I could never have been successful without the help of the Sedalia Police Department, Missouri Highway Patrol, Sedalia Chamber of Commerce and the rest of the Missouri State Fair Staff. Sarah, Molly and Darby- my intern sisters, were more supportive, encouraging and helpful than I could have ever asked for. I definitely wouldn’t have walked away from the route in one piece without them. I also owe a special thanks to my family for braving the crowds to come cheer me on from the sidelines.
If given the chance to do the parade again, I most definitely would. This experience was one of the most challenging, but rewarding projects I’ve ever been a part of. If you attended this year’s parade, I hope you enjoyed it. If you attend a future Opening Day Parade, remember that there is an intern and a village of people that have graciously donated their time to keep one of the Fair’s most cherished traditions running, but we wouldn’t change it.