After COVID-19 break, Collins Park July 4th parade returns
When a group of neighbors envisioned the first interpretation of the Collins Park July 4th Parade 50 years ago, the idea was more to entertain their children than to establish a long Topeka tradition.
“Over the years, we didn’t know if it would last one, two or five or ten years,” said Sara Hischke, one of those founding parents.
The first parade was decidedly low-tech – the group stuck signs on telephone poles in the central Topeka district. The first iteration had 100 people, a band that hadn’t played their respective instruments for many years, and no spectators.
50 years later, a lot has changed.
Hischke’s children, 2 and 3 1/2 when the parade began, are now middle-aged, with their own children. Dozens of residents from all over Topeka now descend on the small neighborhood, with politicians, classic cars and military vehicles among the acts featured.
What hasn’t changed is the sense of community and the Americana that permeates the marching band, the flag that waves – even the bagpipes.
“It’s always been done the way you are, do what you do,” said Ann Nelson, another of the founding members.
John Nelson, one of the children initially at the center of the original parade, noted that the summer brought many memories: field trips to a radio station, visits to museums and parks. But none have endured quite the same – he’s timing his monthly trips back from Chicago to make sure he’s in town for the holidays.
“This is my family and these are memories,” Nelson said.
For many participants and observers, the event was a family affair.
Ted Ensley rode his 30-year-old Pontiac Sunbird, named “Junior” in the parade, an annual event that he says brought joy to him, his family and those scattered across Collins Avenue, by attending. to the festivities. Her nieces were sitting in the back of the car, throwing candy at the excited onlookers.
“It’s a good time, especially after last year,” Ensley said. “Now is the time to come together and get out of politics and wear red, white and blue.”
Her daughter Megan replied, “It’s Americana.”
Anyone heading to Collins Park would be hard-pressed to disagree with this assessment amid the dizzying array of red, white and blue clothing, barbecues going on, without being put off by the parade’s start at 11 a.m. , and families arguing over lawn chairs, dogs and small children.
But like many celebrations and traditions, the event was halted last year due to COVID-19 – although that didn’t stop Hischke from bringing together a small group of revelers, including a group of musicians, to celebrate the holidays.
Participants and observers were happy to see the event again in all its flag glory, although Ann Nelson noted that the crowd was still not as crowded as it used to be.
Still, many of the attendees were like Duane and Debbie Pomeroy and their family, who associate the parade with celebrations in other areas of Topeka, including Potwin and College Hill, which take place over the weekend.
Duane Pomeroy himself used to parade in the parade during his tenure on Topeka City Council, the days of joking are over.
“I’m not in good shape now,” he said.
They were joined by his wife’s family, who had come from Texas and St. Louis for the holidays, proving that the magnetic pull of the Collins Park parade extends not only to Topeka but also to the United States.
“It’s like Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish,” said Debbie Pomeroy. “On July 4th, everyone is coming to Collins Park.”