A taste of the Picnic
Parades sparkle with star-spangled spirit
Looking at the stars, stripes and camouflage on children's parade entries in the parking lot across from Eudora City Hall Friday evening, it might have been easy to mistake the CPA Picnic for that other July holiday.
With warnings of thunderstorms bringing hail and lightning to Baldwin City and Wellsville, the skies Friday may have been gray, but much of what was underneath them at this year's picnic was red, white and blue.
Joining in the patriotic spirit that surfaced at this year's event was Robert Overcash, a Marine Corps sergeant who's son, Cody, tottled through the parade on a child's motorized toy jeep covered in camouflage fabric.
"I picked it up at the base," Overcash said of his son's pint-sized fatigues. "We had the truck and found the camouflage, and put it together."
As the bicycles, sprint cars and wagons rolled down Main Street toward CPA Park, parade-watchers, many of whom sat under the eaves of downtown buildings or lined the sidewalks in front of the park, got a further taste of military pride.
One entry included a sign that read, "Sheldon Payne: Supporting our dad and other soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom."
Amidst the hum of lawn mowers, which towed some of the children's entries, it wasn't unusual for entries to display a towering Statue of Liberty or to bear the words "God Bless America," as did another float whose participants wore star-spangled dresses to match their wagon.
The patriotism didn't wane Saturday with the main parade, which included Pack 3064 Cub Scouts and some of Boy Scout Troop 64, as they hopped aboard a pick-up truck transformed into a fire engine, complete with upside-down red plastic party cups across the top for lights.
"The firefighter theme was to go with 9-11" said Cub Scout leader Bryan Chumbley, who added the float also recognized firefighters in Eudora.
The scouts were able to help out with the float by painting red the numerous pieces of cardboard lining the vehicle. Although Chumbley said the grown-ups had to help out with the assembly, the high-tech, pump-action water guns were the children's idea.
"It was so hot last year, they were trying to think of a way to keep cool for this year," he said.
Even though Friday evening's cool temperatures were short-lived, making way for Saturday evening's hot, sticky weather, the scouts cooled off parade watchers, like an unsuspecting group gathered near a pick-up truck near Eighth and Main streets who got a blast of water from the float.
Another entry paid tribute to other workers who make Eudora run. Riding on a float above the sign "Thank you for your service, Eudora," children dressed as different professions, like a teacher, construction worker and a physician.
The parade recognized patriotism of the past with equestrians dressed in old-style military uniforms and as cowboys of the old west. The parade also paid tribute to the past with the Eudora Area Historical Society's float, "Hats Off to History," which included a prairie-style bonnet, representative of Eudora's early days, and a nod to the era of monarchy with a gold foil Burger King crown.
"And of course, our standard ball cap," society President Pat Johnston said, motioning toward several of the float's riders who demonstrated a more modern style.
One children's parade entry tipped its hat to Eudora's past as well, with Ashley Fox, 1, Tyler Weeks, 2, and Zoe Dameron, 1, participated on a float as the future members of the Eudora Cattlemen's Protection Association, the organization that originated the picnic and from which CPA takes its name.
"We had the stick pony; we had the cow," said Megan Weeks. "You put it all together. It's simple."
Although some entries had watchers thinking about the past, several entries wanted viewers to think about the future, specifically Aug. 6, when voters will cast their ballots in a primary election for positions ranging from state Legislature to treasurer to attorney general. A black dog emblazoned with Rob Boyer stickers was pulled into the action to support the 38th district state House candidate who, if chosen over Shannan Nelson in the primary, could run against Eudora's Carlie Abel, who rode with his wife, Anita, in the back of a pick-up truck adorned with home-made signs.
After parade-watchers picked up candy from the street and gathered the campaign materials they'd been handed, a crowd gathered around the gazebo to hear the community band, which in keeping with tradition, played patriotic songs. The musician's rendition of John Phillip Sousa marches got the audience clapping their hands or stamping their feet on the metal bleachers in time with the music.
As the weekend's events progressed, including a fun run and golf tournament, carnival rides and children's relay games, and hamburgers and cotton candy, a Wizard of Oz-themed children's parade entry sign might have summed up best what many participants feel about the CPA Picnic: "There's no place like home, Eudora, Kansas."