Sights, sounds, cheers

Published 10:42 am Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some came as families. Some came with their dogs. Some came as walkers or with coolers and lawn chairs.

As the 2011 edition of the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade marched past, both the sea of spectators along the parade route and procession itself was awash with color and contrast.

Waiting for the start

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Those moments before the procession starts can be precious practice time. The Rock Hill High School Marching Band gathered on a corner and put the spit and polish on their performance before getting into line. The Symmes Valley High School Marching Band did the same.

The El Hasa Shrine Oriental Band played its signature tune and the scimitar carrier did his, um, bump and grind for the ladies on the Abbott Health Care float.

Making it look so easy

There is an almost drill team precision to the way parade officials go about their business. With a copy of the parade lineup in hand, they direct entries to their appointed places, relay information back and forth between divisions, and ensure each division and each entry is in the right place at the right time. But then, many parade officials have performed these tasks for years.

“We’ll be moving here in a few minutes,” parade official Brent Chamberlin advised entries in the fourth division just after 10 a.m. From Railroad Street, the start of the parade was impossible to see. A little guidance proved helpful.

A place to be

Seating is at a premium on parade day. Nowhere is this more obvious than at the Lawrence County Courthouse. First, there is the built- in seating provided by the retaining wall along Center and Fourth streets. And there is the shady seating underneath those huge old trees. For the ringside seat, still other parade goers brought chairs.

Some who come every year come early to claim their particular spot. Tom Dalton of Ironton, his family and four other families gathered under a tent and on the back of at least one truck to watch the parade on a parking lot behind Wendy’s restaurant along Center Street. Some in the group had been there since 7:30 a.m.

“We’re just enjoying the parade,” Dalton said. What is his favorite part of the parade? “The Shriners,” he replied.

For John Pyles of Weekiwachee, Fla., his wife, Georgeanna, and some friends, the parade was best viewed from the windshield of their motor home they had parked on an empty lot along Third Street.

“We were the first ones here,” Pyles said. “We were here at 6:30 (a.m.).”

They came not only for the parade but also for the Hanging Rock School reunion in a couple of weeks. That motor home not only provided a place to sit, high above the lawn chairs, but something extremely handy Monday: air conditioning.

All along Center and Third streets, storefronts became seating alcoves, parking lots that are empty most days were, on this one day, filled with chairs and tables that serve as temporary concession stands.

Melissa Miller, of Olive Hill, Ky., served lemon shakeups and funnel cakes from a pull-up booth and a table on Third Street. In spite of the heat, she said business was about the same as last year, busy, but not overly so.

Along Quincy and Sixth streets, private lawns became public seating for this one day.

At some homes, families sat on front porches and on front yards, watching the bands and fire trucks roll past. Kenny and Cindy Koerper, of 625 S. Sixth St., and their family lined lawn chairs along the sidewalk in front of their house to see the parade.

“My dad was in the Marines 20 years and my father-in-law was in the Navy. I’m proud of our Armed Forces,” she said.

Spreading the word

For some, the parade is a chance to promote an idea or an event. The Lawrence County Chapter of the National Association for The Advancement Of Colored People (NAACP) sat up a tent and a table in front of the Lawrence County Historical Museum at South Sixth Street.

“This is a good place for us,” President John Howard said.

The procession marched past Gateway Baptist’s Church’s somewhat more permanent sign announcing its upcoming Vacation Bible School.