SIKESTON -- For the viewers, the 57th Annual Cotton Carnival Parade has lots to offer - one of the biggest gatherings in the state of Missouri of bands, floats, royalty and more.
For the participants, there is the opportunity to offer "A Salute to the Merchant Marines and Fire Departments" and to compete for prizes of up to $1,000.
Parade Chairman Tom Dirnberger estimates this year's parade on Sept. 29 will feature more than 200 floats. Also the parade will include contestants from Cotton Carnival contests, local and area dignitaries, Shriner clowns, trucks, tractors and political candidates.
"Traditionally this is known as the largest parade in the State of Missouri," said Dirnberger, who is serving his first year as the parade's chairman. "Its success over the years can be attributed to the hard work that all the American Legion members put in on this and the other Cotton Carnival activities. It is a year-long project for all the members - the longtime members, the Auxiliary, the pledge members. It is their dedication to Sikeston and Southeast Missouri that makes this happen."
In particular, Dirnberger adds his praise to long-time previous parade chairman Tom Austin. He credits Austin with enabling the parade to continue to grow.
The 2001 Cotton Carnival Parade will follow the successful basics of those parades from years' past.
The route again begins at the Sikeston High School, which serves as the assembly point. Miss Sikeston contestants should gather in the Fieldhouse parking lot while the dignitaries' vehicles should be situated on Matthews Street, headed east. The vehicles containing queens, kings and other royalty are to parked headed east on Kathleen Street with those floats entered in the adult category heading east on Gladys Street and the student/scout float entries eastbound on Courtney Street. The remaining entries, trucks, tractors, political candidates, are to be parked headed westbound on Ables Road.
The parade chairman noted no bicycles are allowed in the parade and the only ATVs allowed are those ridden by the Shriner Clowns. Participants will be added to the parade at a point determined by the parade chairman, however Dirnberger pointed out those candidates in the Miss Cotton Carnival Contest, which follows the parade, will be featured early in the parade so they will have the opportunity to prepare for the contest that follows.
Safety will continue to be key to the parade's operation. The Sikeston Jaycees have volunteered to assist in the line-up and officers from the Department of Public Safety are providing traffic control.
"Any entry passing out candy must not throw the candy into the streets," emphasized Dirnberger. All candy must reach the crowd of viewers. This is a safety measure to keep small children from running into the path of the parade traffic."
Also individuals will be stationed along the parade route to help keep the participants rolling along at a steady pace, he added.
While getting to be part of a 57-year tradition is fun for some participants, Dirnberger added others are taking part for the generous prize money provided by the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary. This year's grand prize winner receives $1,000 in the adult division while first prize is $600; second place, $500; and third place $400. In the student/scout division the top prize winner will receive $250 with a second place prize of $150 and third place of $100.
The parade chairman said he hopes those building floats will use their imaginations as they design their entries to meet this year's theme of "A Salute to the Merchant Marines and Fire Departments."
He noted both groups are individuals who have put their lives on the line for the safety of the public.
"Most people know about fire departments, many of our local fire departments are individuals who volunteer their time to serve the communities. The Merchant Marines have been a part of the United States' history since before World War II, serving as a military auxiliary during war and national emergency. The Merchant Marines have given their lives for our freedom," Dirnberger said.
For those who participate in the Sept. 29 parade or those who wait along the sidelines to watch it go by, Dirnberger added he hopes both groups will be patient. "This is the largest parade in the State of Missouri and things to get hectic from time to time. We hope everyone remembers to enjoy yourself, hopes for a sunny day and has a good time."
For more information about the Cotton Carnival Parade contact Dirnberger at 262-2128 (home) or 545-3551 (office) or call Blair Moran at 471-9054 (home) or 471-1600 (office).