Rushville Republican

July 2, 2013

A history of the July 4 parade

Rushville Republican

---- — To the people of Rush County:

Imagine you have been in charge of a community event for over 25 years. You nurtured it and watched it grow, and it became very popular. Your event did so well that other people asked you to organize similar events for them. Now all of a sudden people in positions of power tell you this isn’t your event, it has never been your event, and it belongs to another organization. How would you feel?

That is exactly what happened to me at the city council meeting on June 4. The events of that meeting were well reported but something was left out. That is that the Mayor and three members of the city council kept insisting that the Fourth of July parade belongs to the Chamber of Commerce and always has. Because they insisted so emphatically that it was not my parade to organize I became angry. I realized I couldn’t convince them otherwise so I left.

I have heard from a great number of people who agree with my stance on the Fourth of July parade that I need to get the true history of the Fourth of July parade and fireworks out to the public. So I am doing just that. Following is a brief history of the Fourth of July fireworks and parade in the Coons’ era.

In 1981 and 1982 there were no fireworks, the skies over Rushville were dark on the Fourth of July. In 1983 people started asking if someone could bring back the fireworks. My husband, George, who had previously shot fireworks with the Jaycees and shot the show at Lake Santee, said, “I think I can do this.” In one month he raised $2,500 from local businesses and Fourth of July fireworks returned to Rush County. There are a great many people who have helped with this project over the years and we are grateful to all of these people.

In 1984 live music provided by local DJs Bill Servies and Kevin Snyder was added and in 1985 the local radio station began airing a soundtrack for the fireworks. We continue to shoot the fireworks to an all patriotic soundtrack, and this year the music will be aired on three radio stations: WKPW (90.7 FM) in Knightstown, and WIFE (94.3 FM) and WRLN (91.9 FM) in Rushville.

Initially the fireworks display was shot from the area where Fujitsu Ten was located and when that business came to town the fireworks were moved to our present site in the field north of the Rushville Elementary school. We are very grateful to the Rush County school board for allowing us to continue to shoot fireworks on their grounds.

In 1985 George asked Chamber of Commerce director Beth Malcom if she could do a festival and parade. Beth organized the parade and festival for two years and then decided not to continue. So, in 1987 we began organizing the parade and the Optimist Club started their car show. It was at this time that the Chamber of Commerce ceased having anything to do with the parade. A number of years ago we asked the city of Rushville if their insurance would cover the Fourth of July parade and we were told no because it is a private event. So for years we have insured the parade ourselves through a local insurance agency.

The parade has not, as some contend, always been on Main Street. The first parade was held on Morgan Street. The next year it moved to Perkins Street where it stayed for many years. Eventually, the parade moved to Main Street where it stayed until 2007 when it was moved to Morgan Street. It moved back to Main Street the next year and then in 2010, during the construction, the parade landed on Harrison Street, where it really seemed to fit.

The Fourth of July parade is the oldest and largest parade in Rush County and is unique for several reasons. It is held in July, one of the hottest months of the year, last year more so than usual with temperatures above 100. This parade starts south and goes north; all other parades start north and go south. It is the only parade held on an actual holiday when many businesses are closed.

In deciding where to have the parade last year, we talked with the police chief, who let us make the decision regarding which street to use, but did say that logistically Harrison would be better. We drove up and down Main Street and up and down Harrison Street. The decision to have the parade on Harrison Street was made in good faith. Our concern was for the safety and comfort of the people participating in and watching the parade. We don’t want people sitting in the sun for over an hour with no shade overhead. We don’t want people walking in the parade without some respite from the sun beating down on them. Having the parade on Harrison Street makes sense for other reasons as well and traffic on State Rd. 3 is not blocked for an hour while the parade moves.

We’ve had more compliments and positive comments regarding the parade since its move to Harrison Street than we’ve had in a long time. Harrison is a beautiful, historic, tree-shaded street. There’s no reason there can’t be a parade on a street other than Main.

I don’t have a problem with people voicing opinions that differ from mine. That is the basis of a free and open society and that is what we celebrate on the Fourth of July. I don’t have a problem with other people and organizations having parades on Main Street or on any other street they choose. Community pride can be expressed anywhere and at any time. You don’t have to be on Main Street to do that.

I have been organizing parades in Rush County for over 25 years. I love parades. I love organizing parades.

I believe the people in charge of and responsible for an event, whether it is a 5K run, a go-cart race, or a parade, should be allowed to choose the best venue for that event.

We have always felt that the Fourth of July parade should be about celebrating Independence Day and our heritage of freedom. For that reason we never had parade grand marshals, we appreciate our veterans as they lead the parade. It’s not about getting patrons for businesses. It’s not about the organization in charge, and it’s not about a handful of people controlling things for everyone else.

George and I have talked for several years about retiring from providing the Fourth of July fireworks as well as the parade. We have decided that this will be our last year to raise funds for, and provide, the Rush County Fourth of July fireworks. Our sons, Kent, Tyler and Wylie have grown up with this project and have been a tremendous help over the years. Our good friend, Thomas Alexander, has been involved for a number of years and is a great help.

Tyler Coons, who produces the soundtrack for the fireworks, will provide music for a DJ dance from 8 to 10 p.m. July 4, on the north parking lot at Rushville Elementary Schools.

Please join us for our “Last Blast” at 10 p.m. Thursday, July 4, in the field north of Rushville Elementary Schools.

Thank you for all of your support over the years. We really appreciate this community.


Sandra Coons

Rush County Fireworks