SIKESTON -- As the American Legion Cotton Carnival marks its 60th year, it will pay tribute to the past while looking to the future.
Using the theme "Honoring Our Past To Ensure Our Future," the four-day celebration will again include one of the biggest parades in Missouri, carnival rides, royalty and yes, fish sandwiches. The event is set for Sept. 22 through Sept. 25 at the Sikeston Jaycee Rodeo grounds.
According to Blair Moran, parade co-chairman, the theme is one used this year by the national American Legion's Ladies Auxiliary. "Since this was our 60th year it seemed like this was a good theme for us, too," he explained.
The Sept. 25 parade will use the theme as well with the local Legion honoring a long-time member, who recently died. The late Bob King was slated to serve as the parade's grand marshal and will still be honored with a special car in the parade.
Also local residents currently serving in the military will be saluted by the Legion. Moran pointed out Spencer Matthews, veteran of the Iraqi war, is featured on the Cotton Carnival program book's cover. He added plans are already being made on how they can honor area residents currently serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom at the 61st annual Cotton Carnival.
In addition to using the event as a salute to those who have and are serving their nation, Legion member Chester Kordahl said it also serves as a homecoming for many Southeast Missouri residents. "It is a tradition," he said for those who come back each year to participate in the activities.
Those returning will find Tinsley Amusements again providing the carnival rides.
And as usual Saturday's parade is drawing lots of participants.
The parade will again begin at Pine Street, traveling north to Malone Avenue, where it will turn west continuing to Scott Street. At Scott Street the participants will be able to disperse in the parking lots on the west side.
Also those participating in the parade can look forward to cash prizes if they are declared a first, second or third place winner in either the adult or student/scout categories with a grand prize of $1,000 awarded to the top float.
The 60th edition of the Cotton Carnival does include a few changes.
Due to scheduling conflicts, this year's events will last only four days. Also the Miss Sikeston contest is slated for Saturday night which organizers said should make it easier on contestants who often had to rush to work the pageant in on the same night as a high school football game.
While the American Legion primarily uses the Cotton Carnival as a fund-raiser enabling the group to make donations to local charities and to assist veterans in need throughout the year, it is also an opportunity to provide lots of fun. Kordahl noted most people will enjoy activities in the evening, however one afternoon is set aside when those from the nursing homes and New Dawn State School are treated to lunch and the rides.
Although hours of work go into the event by American Legion members, it is worth it, Kordahl said. "We enjoy seeing the people coming out and having a good time," he said adding in turn there is something the public can do. "We hope they will appreciate the veterans and their sacrifices."
For more information about putting a stand at the Cotton Carnival contact Herb St. Mary at 471-9956. For information on the queen contest call Vickie Wilson at 471-3205. Parade information is available from Tom Dirnberger at 262-2128 (home) or 545-3551 (office) or Blair Moran at 471-9054 (home) or 471-1600 (office).