MONROE Column after colorful column of marching formations filled the streets of downtown Monroe yesterday as row after row of folding chairs surrounded the sidewalks for the kickoff parade of the 61st annual Monroe County Fair.
A crowd organizers estimated at 25,000 watched the nearly 100-unit parade roll, march, and dance its way along the 1.6-mile course under comfortable, sun-drenched skies.
I ve been to many parades, and this is probably the nicest day there has been, said Parade Chairman Stan Diroff, who brought up the rear with a loudspeaker, urging spectators to follow him to the fairgrounds.
C mon out and have yourself a great afternoon at the fair!
The parade for many was a family affair, as parents pushed baby strollers and accompanied wide-eyed children toward the best viewing spots along the street and park edges.
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While the parade didn t head out onto South Monroe Street until 1 p.m., some got an early start on the day.
I went out this morning about 9 o clock to get breakfast, and people were already out setting up chairs, saidDan Johnson, of Monroe, who watched the action pass with his 2-year-old son, Hayden, on his shoulders.
Leading the parade was a veterans contingent that included Monroe s Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 142.
Next in line was this year s parade marshal, Tim Berta, of Ida, Mich., a survivor of the Bluffton baseball team bus crash last year that took the lives of seven people.
The parade, which included several marching bands and a cavalcade of shiny vintage cars and bright fire trucks among other participants, was about one hour long.
Yesterday s kickoff marked the first day of seven for the county fair.
For Lawrence and Delores Simmons, of Frenchtown Township, it marked the 60th anniversary of their first date.
It all happened at the 1948 fair, the first time that the two teenagers had a chance to hang out when the future Mrs. Simmons wasn t baby-sitting Mr. Simmons little brother.
The couple has been married for 55 years, and said that the only county fair they ve missed was in 1952 when Mr. Simmons was serving in the Army.
Mrs. Simmons said the parade is much larger now in number of participants and spectators, and that spectacle seems to have outpaced an older element of rural practicality.
Farm equipment just used to be one piece after another, she recalled.
As the procession wound down, parade-goers, such as the Thompson family of Monroe, faced the bumper-to-bumper traffic and headed toward the fairgrounds.
Joe Thompson, the father in the group of four, said the lure of hot carnival-style French fries and icy slushies was too much for them to resist.
This is our first opening day, and it s a beautiful day for the fair, he said.
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