Boulter Middle School seventh-grader Makaela Minix spent part of Saturday morning shivering in the back of a truck at the East Texas State Fairgrounds, waiting patiently to see her favorite musicians.
“I’m a yeller,” Wendy Minix, a former John Tyler booster club member, teased. “I just get excited.”
The Minix family was among thousands of enthusiastic people who turned out on a crisp morning to enjoy the Texas Rose Festival Parade, featuring Rose Queen Haley McGrede Anderson and her royal court. They were joined by a lively lineup of other attractions.
The occasion, set to the theme “Indochine: Year of the Dragon,” drew more than 135 parade entries including pogo stick athletes, BMX Pro Peter Brandt, Dora the Explorer and the Wells Fargo Stagecoach.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Julie Dawson, executive director, Texas Rose Festival Association, said, estimating the turnout at 35,000. “Starting last year, we really tried to build the parade better and better. The Strutters reorganized it this year and got more volunteers involved to reach out to the various groups.”
Organizers said they tried to build an event that featured more entertainment, a faster pace and upgraded floats bursting with roses.
The result was a lively mix of attractions that offers something for everyone.
Little Laura “Mimi” Gonzalez, 7, a member of the Tyler Ravens and a student at Jones Elementary School, seemed to bubble with delight about her role in the parade.
“It’s like, wow!” she said as the procession began to inch forward. “We’re really excited.”
Attending the parade is an annual event, Ms. Crawford said, snapping photos of the group. The children watched from warm sleeping bags spread out on the pavement.
“We always get here early,” a grinning Ms. Abernathy said. “We just make sure we have food, drinks and find a place that’s close to a potty.”
The procession took its traditional route, starting at Glenwood Boulevard and Front Street then proceeding west on Front before crossing through the East Texas State Fairgrounds to end at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Tyler Junior College’s Apache Belles and Apache Band helped get the show rolling. Some sported vintage-inspired outfits that helped many recall much of the school’s tenure.
Saturday’s procession also included a host of special guests, including a delegation from Yachiyo City, Japan, visiting as guests of Tyler Sister Cities.
“They love the Rose Festival,” Sister Cities President Pat Johns said. “I think the pageantry really appeals to the Japanese. This is the fourth time they have come during Rose Festival. … The theme this year is quite appealing.”
Wells Fargo advisers invited three local wounded warriors to join the firm in the parade: Marine Corps Cpl. Millard Westfall, Staff Sgt. Timothy Pennington and U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Armstrong.
The trio was accompanied by Boy Scout Pack 391 and Cub Master Gary Ellard.
In other attractions, four pogo experts known as XPOGO, featured in Nike commercials aired during the 2012 Summer Olympics, bounced down the street on super-size sticks.
Members included Nick McClintock, of New York; Michael Mena, of Florida; Jake Gartland, of Michigan; and Dalton Smith, of Tennessee.
The group said the estimated nine-block trek to the stadium wasn’t a problem, citing the world record for distance bouncing: 23 miles.
Other gravity-defying acts included BMX Pros Stunt Team, Dallas Stiltwalkers, Dallas Unicycle Club and juggler David Slick, a two-time Guinness World Record holder.
Veteran parade spectators Jodi Bradshaw, of Whitehouse, and Amy Dushuanack, of Tyler, have been attending the parade together for years to support their children.
This year the moms were rooting for Ms. Bradshaw’s son, Christian, a trumpet player in the Whitehouse Junior High Band.
“I used to go with her, now she goes with me,” Ms. Bradshaw said with a grin.
Joining them was another parade regular, Penny Burdette, also of Whitehouse, cheering on her two sons and husband, representing her town’s junior high band and Cub Scout Pack 370, respectively.
“They are all in the parade and I’m out here, alone,” she joked. “Without spectators, where would they be?”