SIKESTON -- This year's Cotton Carnival parade will be safer but just as sweet.
The American Legion Post No. 114 and Auxiliary's 63rd Annual Cotton Carnival Parade will begin at 10 a.m. Sept. 27, according to Blair Moran, co-chairman for the parade.
"This year our theme is honoring our Gold Star Mothers and our flag," Moran said.
Gold Star Mothers are American women whose children have died in the line of duty while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
"With our current War on Terrorism, we thought it would be appropriate that this group of ladies be recognized for the sacrifice of their son or daughter," Moran said, "not only during this war, but during all the other wars."
Those watching this year's parade may still receive sweet treats but will need to stand back and wait for it to be handed to them.
"No candy will be thrown from the vehicles in the parade or by people walking alongside the vehicles," said Capt. Dan Armour of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. "The reason for this ruling is it is a safety measure to keep small children from running into the path of the parade traffic. In years past we've had small children running into the street and getting really close to the parade vehicles. The worst tragedy we could have would be a small child being run over."
Armour said the DPS officials discussed their concerns with the American Legion leadership who agreed that throwing things to the crowd would eventually result in an accident.
"We don't want anything thrown," said Tom Dirnberger, co-chair for the parade. "This is all for the safety for the children."
Dirnberger said anything distributed to the crowd must be placed in their hands -- not tossed or thrown.
"The Department of Public Safety will strictly enforce this rule," Moran said.
The no-throwing rule is not the only first for this year's Cotton Carnival parade, however.
"The Budweiser Clydesdales from St. Louis will be here for the parade," Moran said. "I don't think they've ever been in our parade before."
Moran said the Clydesdales will be in this year's parade thanks to the efforts of State Rep. Ellen Brandom and Jamie Ralph of Ralph Distributing.
"We will have anywhere from 10-13 marching bands from Southeast Missouri," Moran said.
Dignitaries and candidates for political offices from both parties will also participate in the parade, according to Moran. "This year being an election year we expect it to be a very large parade," he said.
Line up for the parade will be at 9:15 at the Sikeston Senior High School on Pine Street.
The parade will travel north on Pine Street to Malone Avenue then west on Malone to Scott Street where it will disperse in vacant parking lots west of Scott Street.
"We will judge both adults and student floats," Moran said.
The Cotton Carnival begins the Tuesday before the parade on Sept. 23 at the Sikeston Jaycee rodeo grounds. The American Legion's fish trailer will open at 4 p.m. while carnival rides will open at 5 p.m. weekdays and at noon on Saturday Sept. 27.
Tuesday Sept. 23 and Friday Sept. 26 will be wristband nights with wristbands costing $20 for access to all rides. Wednesday Sept. 24 will be dollar ride night.
Saturday Sept. 27 will have wristbands from noon until 5 p.m. and ride coupons only after 5 p.m.
The American Legion's fish trailer will also be open from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m. for lunch beginning on Sept. 23 at the rodeo grounds.
On Sept. 24 at noon, the Legion will provide free lunch for the Kenny Rogers Children's Center Center, New Dawn State School, area nursing homes and the Sheltered Workshop, Moran said, along with free rides at the carnival.
Kicking off the pageants, Little Mr. and Miss Cotton Carnival, for all children ages 4-6, will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 24.
The Junior Miss Sikeston pageant will take place at 8 p.m. Sept. 25 and is open to any freshman attending Sikeston Public Schools.
The Miss Cotton Carnival pageant will be Sept. 27 immediately following the parade and is open to high school students that are not attending Sikeston Public Schools.
At 7 p.m. Sept. 27, the Miss Sikeston contest will be held. This contest is only for Sikeston Senior High School students.
In the event of inclement weather, pageants will be at the gymnasium at the First Baptist Church, 1101 North Main.
"We appreciate the support we receive each year from the community for this event," Moran said of the Cotton Carnival. "It continues to be a great tradition of the Sikeston community."