Parades along with high school and college commencement exercises are happening throughout Kansas this month and having attended three this past weekend, the events provided plenty of fodder for this week’s column.
In 1914, a group of civic activists in McPherson met to plan an event designed to honor the county’s eighth grade graduates. This meeting would produce All Schools Day, an event now 105 years old with no end in sight which has produced what is reputed to be the state’s largest parade. With more and more students attending school beyond the traditional grade school years, All Schools Day has evolved to honor high school and college graduates.
Arriving in downtown McPherson 30 minutes before the start of the 2019 parade, I soon found that the nearest parking spot was 15 blocks from the route. Chief of Police Rob McClarty, wearing his dress uniform, was front and center meeting and greeting the public and estimated this year’s crowd at 50,000 (or about three times the city’s population).
Senator Jerry Moran, 19 days shy of his 65th birthday remains in top shape as he walked the entire parade route in advance of the 10:30 a.m. start. For Senator Moran, the day was the first of three events that would also which include a commencement address and a town hall meeting in Hutchinson.
There is something for everyone in the All Schools Days Parade. Antique vehicle and tractor buffs have a bird’s eye view of the successful efforts of making something decades old look new again. From what I observed, every town in McPherson County either entered a float or a vehicle. Although the parade route included area high school marching bands, high schools in Abilene and Chapman also sent their bands.
Representatives of Hospice and HomeCare of Reno County and Health-E-Quip entered vehicles while representatives of the two organizations handed out candy to the kids along the parade route.
One bystander asked me why the horses are always the last entry, and as the parade was concluding there was plenty of evidence on the street confirming why it’s a good decision.
All Schools Day is an all-volunteer organization that operates totally on contributions of time, energy and financial resources of hundreds of volunteers from the McPherson community.
The following day, it was time for a 170-mile trip to southwest Kansas for the Sublette High School graduation. Alec Hinkle, better known as A.J., a great nephew was slated to receive his diploma on what was a beautiful spring afternoon.
Thirty-three seniors marched into the high school gymnasium in this, the seat of government in Haskell County. During the event, the seniors fanned out in the near capacity audience to present a rose to their mothers and the graduation gown sash to their fathers. It was a touching moment to witness and a few tears were shed.
It was the 100th time Sublette had sent a high school graduating class out into the world. Marty Marlin, Sublette’s high school principal, pointed out the first graduating class in 1920 was made up of a single member, Wilma Miller. Marlin jokingly said the prom that year must have been an interesting event.
I was not surprised that the pictures of previous classes displayed in the lobby was a popular stop following the commencement. Typical comments was how much or how little various class members had aged in the years following graduation.
A sign near the school’s entrance summed up Sublette’s mission in educating its youth: “Be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.”
The final stop of a busy weekend was the graduation of 46 seniors at Trinity Catholic High School in Hutchinson. Olivia Shank, a great niece, was among the grads and did the family proud as the class Salutatorian. She also holds the distinction of being the first Shank to be recruited to play college basketball and this fall will be testing her skills on the hard woods at Tabor College in Hillsboro.
Bishop Carl Kemme was on hand to give the charge sending the Trinity graduates on their next step of life.
Trinity’s class motto inscribed on the event program summed up the attitudes of a fine looking group of young people. “We didn’t realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.”
In these days of dissent and division in our state and nation, there remains plenty good happening in McPherson, Hutchinson and Sublette and all other cities and towns throughout Kansas. Perhaps, we would be wise to talk about some of those accomplishments more.
Richard Shank is a retired AT&T manager, is employed in the healthcare industry and has farming interests in Saline County. Email him at email@example.com.