2014-05-22 / Front Page

Parade, Pageant Highlight Weekend

Mackinaw City
By Erich T. Doerr

The annual Mackinaw Memorial Parade is coming through Mackinaw City this weekend. Michigan’s largest Memorial Day weekend parade will take place downtown at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 24.

The parade will follow its traditional route starting near the former State Ferry Dock near Conkling Heritage Park. It will proceed north on Huron Avenue before turning west onto Central Avenue. The parade will then turn north again onto Nicolet Street before concluding at the entrance to Colonial Fort Michilimackinac to tie in with the annual historical pageant’s first performance at 3:30 p.m. The parade usually takes about an hour and 15 minutes to complete.

The parade has been a tradition in Mackinaw City for the last 46 years and has grown alongside the pageant it accompanies. Hundreds of pageant participants will march in the parade. This year’s parade coordinators are Bob Fisher, Jane Magers, and Jeff Hingston.

“There’s an awful lot of people who come here every year for the parade,” Mr. Fisher said. “It’s a nice feeling of satisfaction when it goes well. I enjoy seeing the parade myself and I’ve seen it 46 times.”

Mr. Fisher estimated this year’s parade could draw upwards of 20,000 spectators from throughout the state. Guests will start lining up along the parade route by 11 a.m., with some bringing picnics to enjoy before the event starts. This year’s parade will have more than 80 entries and about 600 people taking part.

This year’s parade will feature a wide variety of entries including antique cars, floats, drill teams, and horses. There will be representatives from the Shriners, two Masonic Lodges, and several veterans organizations, including the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mackinaw City organizations taking part will include the Mackinaw Woman’s Club, the Mackinaw City Chamber of Commerce, and the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum. The color guard from Coast Guard Station St. Ignace will be the first entry to make its way down the route.

“We’ll have a little bit of everything,” Mr. Fisher said. “We try to make it as interesting as we can”

This year’s parade will feature more than 10 bands including the Scottville Clown Band and high school bands from Mackinaw City, Addison, West Ottawa, and Goodrich. Many bands return year after year.

“Once a band comes here for the parade, they are almost certain to return,” Mr. Fisher said.

The parade will include entries from across Michigan plus some from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, including the Newman Navy League Cadet Corps. The crowd favorite St. Ignace Fire Department clowns will also be back.

The Grand Marshal of this year’s parade will be Clinton Township’s Claude Shannahan, a Marine Corps World War II veteran who served in the Pacific theater. He will ride in a convertible right behind the Harbor Springs’ Marine Corps League.

The parade committee plans the parade lineup a week before the event. The process takes about three hours. Mr. Fisher said they focus on spacing the acts to provide the maximum variety and assure that the bands do not follow one another.

“It has to be laid out in a certain fashion,” Mr. Fisher said. “You can’t just throw it together the night before the parade. There isn’t enough time.”

Staging the parade is a large-scale effort that will involve the assistance of local police officers from several departments to assist with traffic control and lining up the parade entries. The Mackinaw City Department of Public Works will block off the streets and put up signs about the parade.

The process of planning next year’s parade begins immediately after this one ends. The parade committee will meet the day after the parade to critique what worked and begin planning for next year. Planning begins in earnest in January.

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