By Josh Letner
On Monday, July 4, 2011 — the nation’s 235th birthday — children and families in Pittsburg gathered for the 32nd annual Fourth of July Kids’ Parade.
The neighborhood parade has always had a grand marshal. That role in the first couple of years was filled by the late Hank Geier, a veteran of World War I. Other grand marshals have included firefighters and a state representative.
This year, the honor went to Mary Burlingame, a Pittsburg resident who survived severe injuries as a result of the May 22 tornado in Joplin, Mo.
Burlingame was in her vehicle when the tornado struck, and she suffered serious injuries when she was sucked out of her car and impaled by flying debris. She recently returned home after a hospital stay.
“It’s really nice to see the neighborhood come together,” she said Monday, wearing a T-shirt that said “Restore Joplin” and waving an American flag.
Seventeen-year-old William Mitchelson said he has been going to the parade for as long as he can remember.
“It’s great,” he said. “I’ve grown up with it, and all of my family and friends who live around here have grown up with it. It’s really nice to get the kids out and let them have some fun early in the morning on the Fourth of July.”
The parade was the brainchild of retired schoolteacher Janeal Bryan.
“It occurred to me that, at that time, Pittsburg did not have any sort of a celebration during the daytime,” Bryan said. “The only thing that children and families did as a community activity was watch the fireworks in the evening. So I thought, ‘Well, we’ll do something’ because I’ve always believed in making children a part of the celebration.”
Her son, Neal, who has participated in all 32 of the neighborhood parades, said his mother didn’t want the children to have to wait all day to start celebrating.
“My mom decided that Christmas morning you wake up and open presents, Easter morning you wake up and Easter egg hunt, but the Fourth of July you wake up and have to wait till dark to watch the big fireworks, so we needed something in the morning,” he said.
One of the youngest participants this year was 5-week-old Kern Sagehorn.
His parents, Kip and Holly Sagehorn, moved to the neighborhood recently.
“I think it’s a nice tradition,” Kip Sagehorn said. “It’s something that seems to keep the neighborhood together. With our modern air conditioning and conveniences, you don’t really get to see your neighbors that often, so it’s really something that brings us together. Neighbors of all ages, it’s something they all can do.”
Peace and service
A SMALL PLAQUE in a tiny park at the intersection of Elmwood Drive, Crestwood Lane and Oakcrest Lane, where the parade in Pittsburg begins, reads: “May the sacrifices of our forebearers never be forgotten; and may we encourage the youth of this neighborhood, this state, and this nation to seek out the ideals of peace and service to their community.”
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