Parrish partied like it was 1916 last weekend, celebrating the former frontier town’s past while casting a wary eye to the future with locals intent on retaining the town’s unique cultural heritage.
The Heritage Day festival celebration and Chili Cook Off began with the sun shining and nary a cloud in the sky. Contingents from the Knights of Columbus and the Duette School cheered along the parade route, which started at the Parrish Fire Station and ended at U.S. 301. Hundreds of parade-watchers were treated to beads and candy by parade units.
“We seem to have a pretty good crowd,” said Heritage Day Chairperson Tami Vaughan as she sat beside the longhorn cattle area, children tentatively leaning in to pet the horned behemoths.
The festival is a fundraiser for the Parrish Foundation, a nonprofit group that gives out thousands in donations every year to local civic groups. “Just last year I gave out a check to the leader of the Cub Scouts (for a trailer so Scouts could haul their gear to camp sites) and the Scout leader started Cub Scouts and the Scout leader started crying. That’s why we do this,” said Vaughan.
Fears that the March 5 parade, celebrating its 30th year, would be hampered by ongoing construction along U.S. 301, were addressed earlier in the week when locals met with county and construction officials to clear the way for the parade. As a result there were only minor traffic backups as visitors packed into Parrish for the town’s biggest party of the year.
Pearl McCraw, director of Parrish Pioneering, said she hoped visitors left with a sense of the Parrish of yesteryear. “(A sense) of the way things used to be before it got so fast and children were on the computers,” she said. “(Here) they can enjoy the animals and the old crafts.”
“I had never heard of Parrish until we started looking for a home, and I really like the rural-type atmosphere here,” said Joe Ligi, a new Parrish resident, as he awaited the parade.
Vivian Buice, 87, a lifelong resident of Parrish, ran Heritage Day for long time and helped bring the parade to town. Once a town with a frontier feel where residents gathered on Saturdays to shop (and some to fight), where animals roamed the streets, Parrish has changed “completely,” Buice said. “I had no electricity until I was a pretty good-size kid. They would fight every Saturday night. You could walk the streets then and no one would bother you.”
This year’s Heritage Day celebration comes at a time when some in Parrish fear the city could lose its small-town feel to development.
“Even though it’s growing fast, it’s been a good community to live in. I think everyone is concerned about the growth but there is not much you can do to stop progress,” said Roy Perron, who has lived in Parrish for 11 years. “They just keep approving all the subdivisions one after another.”
The event included live entertainment, longhorn cattle, pony rides, miniature train rides, a rock-climbing wall, food and drinks, a children’s bungee trampoline, face painting and lots of live demonstrations recalling Parrish’s early days. There was even a children’s bull whip contest.
Cecil’s Antique Emporium — www.cecilemporium.weebly.com — home to a museum dedicated to the town’s early days, also drew a steady stream of visitors throughout the day.