The Russellville community was able to start a new tradition Friday afternoon, as the first Cole County R-1 Homecoming parade rolled through the streets.
What began as a modest effort — according to organizers ahead of and after Friday's parade — turned into a truly community-wide show of school spirit to the tune of more than a dozen floats participating, plus a healthy crowd of Russellville citizens poised with cameras and waving hands throughout the streets of Russellville.
Cole County R-1 Superintendent Perry Gorrell said the feeling among the school population had been one of excitement leading up to Friday's festivities.
"Our kids have had a tremendous time this week with our activities that we've had," Gorrell said Friday afternoon, shortly before the parade left Russellville High School's parking lot. "It's been a tremendous day for our elementary, middle school and high school. It's truly been a sense of great community today, by all of our students and their participation levels. It's just amazing."
Gorrell said the district had some hesitancy in some of its activities last year — and still does to a degree — but felt the parade this year would be a worthwhile addition after a successful pitch from the high school's Booster Club.
The result was an effort that included participation not only from Homecoming royalty candidates and district-wide athletic teams but also high school graduating classes and other clubs and extracurricular activities.
"It's given (our students) an opportunity to be kids," Gorrell said. "It's given them an opportunity to be a part of a community, to be a part of groups."
With varsity football in just its second year at Russellville, Gorrell said being able to amplify Homecoming activities to reflect the excitement around the addition is another benefit of hosting a parade.
"We are new to football, but it's also the vehicle to bring everybody else in," Gorrell said. "Our marching band's going to perform tonight. We're going to crown a Homecoming queen tonight. Our choir's going to sing tonight. There isn't any other event that brings everybody together like a football game."
Russellville High School Principal David Volkart echoed Gorrell's excitement, also noting the efforts of the school's student leadership team in planning pep rallies, the Homecoming dance and contributing to the parade.
"It is (busy), but it's worth it," Volkart said. "It's for the kids and the community. It's our first-ever and, as you can see, it's a pretty good turnout."
That "pretty good turnout" referred to the dozen parade floats arcing around the back side of the high school toward the football field behind Volkart prior to the parade's start. Volkart said the idea was to start small the first time around, but instead the students and community put forth plenty of effort to make the parade a first to remember.
Events like this, Volkart said, are experiences he encourages students to take ownership of.
Gorrell and Volkart also pointed to contributions from the Booster Club as instrumental in making the parade happen. Booster Club President Pam Basnett, for her part, explained the parade was an effort to give back to a community that, in her words, had done "so much for us."
Basnett, her crew of club officers, and another five individuals who help the group presented their idea to Volkart to start.
"I think we scared him," Basnett joked, "because we've never done this. Football, it brings a lot, and we're ready to do this parade. I was honestly expecting five or six floats, but I think today we had anywhere from 12 to 15 floats."
The club is already thinking ahead to next year's parade with some potential adjustments in mind, Basnett said immediately following the parade, after participating herself on the back of the Booster Club's float. For now, though, the success in the first attempt is something she said the group can build off of, especially after seeing the level of participation from school groups and the community members who lined the streets to help celebrate.
Basnett said she and the Booster Club appreciate the school's administration for jumping on board with its "crazy ideas," as well as the community for supporting Russellville's students in more ways than one.
"I think today, seeing everybody, I think the students now know — and probably knew a little bit before — just how much they are supported," Basnett said. "It takes a village, and we always say it takes a 'Tribe.'"