The Monroe Fair Days Parade is just days away, taking place Saturday, Aug. 23, and under the direction of new Chamber of Commerce Director Une Wirkebau-Hart and the staff and volunteers at the chamber, it’s going to be the biggest parade in recent years, with lots of new reasons to get to the downtown early and stay late, said the ambitious new director.
“It will be unlike any parade we’ve had before,” said Wirkebau-Hart.
Not only are there more entries, there is more going on along the sidelines.
As soon as the street is closed and cleared by about 9:30 a.m., as parade-goers are arriving and claiming spots for viewing, the entertainment will begin.
Tai chi demonstrations will move slowly up the street, and people are invited to join along as the demonstration passes. There will be moving Zumba, as well. Giant puppets will wander along the route. A juggler will ride a unicycle along the route, ready to tie balloon animals for kids.
Kids can get their faces painted for free, and vendors with yogurt parfaits, donuts, water and other things will make their way through the crowd, meaning no one has to leave a parade viewing spot for refreshments.
“Then will come the parade,” said Wirkebau-Hart. “It’s bigger than last year, crazy huge, with some surprises.”
The parade will begin at 11 a.m. and this year’s judges include Mayor of Monroe Geoffrey Thomas; Mayor of Darrington Dan Rankin; stuntman Mike “Mr. Dizzy” Buse; Monroe’s new managing librarian Philip Spirito; Hill Street Cleaners owner Eldon Bartelheimer; Promociones Nayarit organizer Danny Hernandez and Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant’s Tony Lozano. They will judge from a viewing area near Wagner Performing Arts Center on Main, where there will be vendors and bleacher seating, as well.
One of the most recent additions to the parade is young Abbey Aney. The precocious philanthropist, 11, has run toy drives for years for the Sky Valley Food Bank’s annual Christmas gift program for kids from low-income families.
Inspired by her devotion to her community, the Sultan-Monroe Masonic Lodge had hoped to honor her with an award during the Chamber of Commerce’s annual award banquet earlier in the summer.
But Aney was in the hospital with a serious medical condition, and wasn’t able to attend.
So Larry Foley, chair of the Mason’s Citizenship Community, suggested making Abbey a junior marshall of the parade, and Wirkebau-Hart loved the idea.
Abbey will ride in the parade in a car driven by Foley, and after the parade, before the parade winners are announced, the Masonic Lodge will present Abbey with her award.
“With what she is going through, what a great way to show support for this marvelous young lady and everything she has achieved in the last six-plus years,” said Foley.
There will also be a lemonade stand at the Masonic Lodge on Lewis and Main, which will raise funds for Abbey’s next toy drive.
Then, after the awards, there will be more activities for those not in a rush to head to the fair, but rather enjoy themselves as they wait for traffic to thin.
Live music will start directly after the parade, there will be a root beer garden open all day and a beer garden will open at noon, a $5 climbing wall will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and people can order and choose designs for custom t-shirts, to be made on the spot.