The Days of '47 Youth Parade was crawling with kids and clowns.
Ronald McDonald's crimson locks are standard fare for Saturday's audience. But this parade's grease-painted contingent included children of all ages, their parents and grandparents and one entry devoted entirely to red ball noses and floppy shoes.Rose Cillay, 67, was a dignified matron eight years ago. "I used to say there's no way I am going to be your clown or anyone else's." But when she placed a puppet on her hand, her audience's smiles convinced her. She's been hamming ever since, including four years in the Days of '47 Youth Parade.
Cillay's character "Lonesome Joe" is a hobo created to make "everybody happy - not only children, but people of every age."
"If I weren't making people happy, I'd be 6 feet under the ground. This is what keeps me going." Cillay said she depends on her clowning stints to boost her spirits since her husband's death four years ago.
Robert and Melinda Ludlow are a father-daughter team who clowned for paradegoers Saturday. "The best part of this parade is meeting the kids, even if it's only for a couple of seconds," Robert Ludlow said.
"I'm doing this because I love kids," said Jerry Cohn, 10-year Youth Parade clown veteran. "I love to tease the kids and tell them jokes because the kids tell them right back."
Cohn organized a "clown band" which, following the flag, led the way for nearly 60 entries and thousands of children.
Everyone who participates in the annual Youth Parade, touted as the largest in the nation, is a kid at heart, according to parade chairwoman Norma Jones. "This gives me a chance to be an 8-year-old for one day."
In keeping with this year's theme, "We Have Places to Go and Things to See," 6,000 children - according to the number of popsicles consumed at the parade's end - marched down Main Street dressed in international costumes, brightly colored T-shirts and shorts and traditional pioneer garb.
Jones said the theme allowed the children to celebrate Columbus' discovery of America and their pioneer heritage simultaneously. "These children are for the future. They've got things to discover and things to see."