By Sue Moore
Schoolcraft’s annual 4th of July parade is 90 years young in 2015. To the thousands who congregate along the parade route, it has become classic Americana. To Deb Reynolds and her parade organizing committee, it is a well-oiled piece of machinery. She has been in charge for 16 years.
But this will be Reynolds last year at the helm, as it will be for several of her trusted volunteers. It will be up to the village of Schoolcraft to help find new volunteers, according to a report Reynolds gave to the Village Council at its June meeting.
“It is super hard to walk away from the parade planning since this in my home town,” Reynolds said. She moved here as a four-year old in 1960. She is also a 41-year employee of Kalamazoo County State Bank (KCSB) which has allowed her to work on the parade during office hours.
“I have a task list called the ‘Holy Grail’ that I will gladly share with whomever you can get to carry this forward,” she offered the council. “I really wanted to go out quietly without any fuss, but I think it’s important to give you time to find someone as this is my last year.”
Village President Keith Gunnett thanked Reynolds for her years of giving back to the community. “The parade is the biggest thing for Schoolcraft and you will be hard to replace. We’ll do what we can to make sure it continues.” The village stepped in last year to continue the car show in Burch Park as it also wanted to see that continue, Gunnett told the audience.
Reynolds started helping Jim Robertson in the 1980s and took over in 1999. She has it so well planned that by parade time, she takes a breather and actually headed home to rest in 2014. The chaos in her home life leading up to that moment the week before, is what she is hoping to avoid in 2016. “Kathy Stiver takes over on the 4th and with her crew of Tom and Mary Carol Clark, they get it done. Jim and Monica Rasmussen also help line up parade participants and will be in retirement mode along with Reynolds.
Shelley McMillan takes care of the multitude of tractors and Randy Palmer will be heading up the fireworks at dusk for his first year at the helm, taking over for Chip Mongrieg. This leaves four people on the overall organizing committee for 2016, including Jon Krum who helps to raise money, Virginia Mongrieg, and Kathy Stiver.
“Police Chief Brian Campbell does an awesome job,” Reynolds said. “We only have two hours to close US 131, beginning at 10:50. If we aren’t done by 12:50, we could be fined as this is a state highway and it causes quite a disruption of traffic. That is a big reason why we don’t take late entries anymore. The parade usually has about 120 to 130 advance entries and it takes that long to move them down the parade route.”
“Last year we were scheduled to have the jets from Selfridge Air Base to fly over at 11:15. I looked up and saw a crop duster plane overhead and realized the jets wouldn’t be able to be here. That’s just one of the little things that can go wrong with the parade that nobody else would notice. Like, why is there a gap? The stress comes from worrying about the weather and the details that go into the planning of the parade. There is no drug on the market that could help me with this part!”
This year she is expecting the “Hooligans” from Battle Creek in their A-10 Warthogs to fly over at about 10:45. They will be coming up from a training flight in Indiana and will be looking to salute the veterans float that will be stationed on the corner of Pearl and Eliza streets. Reynolds applies online for the flyover, based upon a recommendation from Max Loker of Schoolcraft. His heart is in the Stars and Stripes, a true blue American, Reynolds said. “He helped to intercede to get the jets here some years ago and now it’s just something they do for us.”
Doug Flynn has been lining up the parade judges and is the MC now. Prizes are awarded for judges’ choice, most patriotic, classic car, antique tractor, equestrian, and best float. Each of the entrants holds up a card issued with a number on it for Flynn to announce to the crowd. Sara Kowalski has been singing the national anthem when the flag carriers get to the judges stand, next to Mike’s Barber Shop.
For 90 years, the parade has gone off like clockwork. But visitors have no idea what’s behind it all, Reynolds reflected.