by TaLeiza Calloway
Those gearing up for the annual St. Joseph Lions Fourth of July Parade are in for a change this year.
If entrants thought they had a grand vision for floats before, they are being asked by the parade committee to be even more creative this year in showing their community pride.
The annual tradition, organized by the St. Joseph Lions Club, will offer new parade categories this year. They are: Wow! Extreme!, Best Dressed Business, Classy Vehicles, Cool Youth, Animals and Fourth of July Theme.
The four co-chairs of the parade committee – Mary and Ken Stommes and Joe and Joanne Bechtold – said the revising of the parade categories is an effort to spark creativity and be more inclusive.
“It was to fit what was coming to us,” Joe Bechtold said of revising the categories.
Mary Stommes said one of the previous categories was for horses. There were units that brought a petting zoo and therefore did not technically fit in a category; the new Animals’ category fixes that. The Best-Dressed Business category is an effort to get more participation from local businesses.
“I want to get the businesses more involved in the parade,” Mary Stommes said. “I want them to decorate a little bit more.”
Just before a recent Lions Club meeting, the co-chairs recalled a previous entrant that would fit into the Wow! category. The float was a hot-air balloon without the top, and the entrant fired up the burners along the route. Though a sight to see, organizers admit to being a little nervous about it.
While one of the categories invites a Wow-factor, organizers made it clear that safety always comes first, Joanne Bechtold said.
“Even though we say, ‘Wow!,’ safety is our number one priority,” Mary Stommes said.
The St. Joseph Lions Club has organized the parade since 1964, Lions charter member Jim Kuebelbeck said. Before the Lions took over the parade, the St. Joseph Booster Club attempted to revive it but was unsuccessful due to dwindling interest, according to information provided by Kuebelbeck.
When the Lions Club first organized the parade, there were about 35 units; now it averages about 100 units per year. One of the unique units in the St. Joseph parade is a 300-foot-long tow-truck train.
Registration for the parade is now open. More information about registration can be found on the Lions Club’s website: https://stjoelionsmn.lionwap.org.
The deadline to register is one week before July 4. Entrants meeting the deadline are guaranteed inclusion in the parade-program handout, organizers said.
The parade committee is seeking suggestions for who should serve as the Grand Marshal this year. Suggestions can be submitted to any member of the parade committee. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The parade is held in conjunction with the St. Joseph Parish Festival. It is very much a collaborative effort with six Lions Club members needed to help set up the event and more than 24 members on the day of the event.
The event co-chairs said they have yet to actually watch the parade because they are making sure the event runs smoothly. They don’t mind as long as parade-goers enjoy the event.