SIKESTON -- Good food and entertainment always make a carnival fun, but it's the togetherness that sets the American Legion Cotton Carnival apart from the rest.
That's why the annual Sikeston event is special to so many Sikeston residents, said Geniece Kinder, past president of American Legion Ladies Auxiliary and Cotton Carnival program book chair.
"It's a good tradition and part of our history. Everybody looks forward to going out there and seeing people they haven't seen in a year -- and they love our fish sandwiches,' Kinder said.
The annual event, which is one of the largest carnivals and parades in the state, begins Tuesday and ends Saturday.
Kinder said the American Legion appreciates the support the community gives each year to make this endeavor a success
"I think it's good we can keep on doing this," Kinder said. "I'm so glad we've got all these volunteers. It's great we have so many interested in doing it and keeping this tradition alive. I think it would be a terrible shame if we didn't because the carnival is too much of a history of Sikeston."
Kinder should know. She wrote a special article about the history of Sikeston and the Cotton Carnival in this year's program book.
"We started with three rides, and we had 10 bands, and we have grown over the years. Now we have different bunch of rides and different bands from the surrounding communities," Kinder said.
This year's theme is Honoring Military Special Forces and Cotton Industries. Floats in the parade set for Sept. 29 are decorated according to each year's theme.
"The reason we do the military themes every year is because of the situation we're in, and we're proud of our troops and we support them, It's just hard for Scouts and other people (who enter floats in the parade) to come up with a different (military float design) theme each year," Kinder said.
Kinder said she didn't think those entering the parade would have a problem decorating floats to a cotton theme since this is "cotton country."
"We work hard and we will be out there this weekend, setting up trailers to get ready, and we just want everybody to come out and participate," Kinder said.
Rides are open daily at 5 p.m. and at noon Saturday.
Nightly events include: Tuesday, wristband night, $20 or regular coupons; Wednesday, all rides $1 and Little Mr. and Miss Cotton Carnival at 7 p.m.; Thursday, regular coupons only and Junior Miss Sikeston Contest at 8 p.m.; Friday, wristband night, $20 or regular coupons; Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. wristband $20 or regular coupons, 12:30 p.m. Miss Cotton Carnival Contest, 5 p.m. to close, regular coupons only and Miss Sikeston Contest at 7 p.m.
Gene Stroud, grounds chair for the Cotton Carnival, said he's excited about this year's carnival. What makes the carnival a success year after year are the volunteers who come out to help and the residents who come out to enjoy the food and entertainment, he said.
"It's going to be great," Stroud said. "We're hoping for good weather. I hope it cools down for everybody. If we get a little bit of rain it won't hurt us ... especially if it's in the morning."
SIKESTON -- The assembly point for the annual American Legion Cotton Carnival parade is Pine Street at the Senior High School.
Staging area for the parade is as follows: Miss Sikeston and Miss Cotton Carnival contestants, Field House parking lot; dignitaries and political candidates, Matthews Street headed east; queens, kings and other royalty, Kathleen Street headed east; adult floats to be judged, Gladys Street headed east; student and Scouts floats to be judged, Courtney Street headed east; and trucks, tractors and floats not being judged, Ables Road headed west.
A parade marshal will be located at each assembly point to help with the traffic flow and to get entries into the correct position. No bicycles or ATVs, except the Shriners Clowns. Participants will enter the parade at a point to be determined by the parade chairmen.
Any entry passing out candy must not throw the candy into the street. 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.
Cash prizes will be distributed to float winners as follows: Adult - grand prize, $1,000; first prize, $600; second prize, $500; and third prize, $400. Student/Scout - first prize, $250; second prize, $150; third prize, $100.
Parade chairmen are Tom Dirnberger, 262-2128 (home) 545-3551 (office) and Blair Moran 471-9054 (home) 471-1600 (office).