BEEF EMPIRE DAYS: Parade keeps packing them in

5/29/2014

Volunteers continue to make parade a staple event.

Volunteers continue to make parade a staple event.

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram.com

In southwest Kansas, some people joke and say there are more cattle than people, which is true.

But on June 7, hundreds of people from all over southwest Kansas and beyond will file up and down Main Street creating shoulder-to-shoulder traffic to come watch the 2014 American State Bank Beef Empire Days Parade.

Deann Gillen-Lehman would still rather handle the larger number of cattle.

"I always joke and say herding cattle is always a lot easier than herding people," parade co-chairman Gillen-Lehman said as she laughed.

Gillen-Lehman, who has been the parade chairwoman for 24 years, said the annual parade draws spectators from all over to the community event. From young to old, people of different cultures and backgrounds, they all enjoy watching the biggest parade in the city, she said.

Currently, Gillen-Lehman said, there are about 35 entries. But as the parade draws near, she expects 100 or more entries that will include decorative vans, horses, church floats, kids on bikes, and the University of Kansas mascot, "Baby J."

The parade is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. June 7 at the National Guard Armory on South Main Street and will end at Walnut Street. The staging area at the Finney County Fairgrounds parking Lot will open at 8 a.m., and all participants should line up no later than 9:45 a.m. to begin the parade on time.

The 2014 parade theme is "BEEF... The Chef's Choice." Cash prizes of $75 for first place and $50 for second place will be awarded in all float categories. Ribbons will be awarded in all categories for first, second and third place. Categories include adult, youth, 4-H, commercial, vehicle and animal. Judging of entries will take place as the parade travels through Main Street, and participants will be notified the week following the parade if they have won a prize.

Gillen-Lehman said the parade grand marshal is Dee Likes, who joined the staff of the Kansas Livestock Association in 1976 after a stint as cattle market analyst for CattleFax in Denver. Also featured in the parade is the Mary Hopkins Award recipient, Dr. Robert Lee, a long-time beef industry consultant and volunteer within the agriculture community for more than 30 years.

One volunteer Gillen-Lehman mentioned is Barbara Oringderff, who missed one year because of throat cancer. A couple years ago, Gillen-Lehman said, Oringderff was also a Mary Hopkins award winner.

Besides the very first year of the event and the year she missed because of cancer, Oringderff has never missed a year volunteering as the parade announcer.

"I love parades and always felt Beef Empire Days was worthwhile and a unique celebration," Oringderff said.

Oringderff said she remembers when Beef Empire Days was just a small show with a little parade to educate on cattle feeding. Now a 10-day event, she said the parade has grown right along with the community.

"Everyone gets so enthusiastic about it — judges, prizes, food, it's a great thing," she said.

She also will announce the parade with long-time announcer Charles Sinclair. To keep the excitement of the crowd going, Oringderff said, they both put as much color into their announcing as possible when they are reading the bios of the entries or keeping the crowd tuned in to the sights and sounds.

All the parade entries show versatility in their floats, but Oringderff said she always looks forward to the 4-H kids and their designs.

"They use the theme in their floats very well every year. Every year tops the previous year," she said.

Still days away from the parade, Gillen-Lehman relishes the importance and all it takes to make the parade happen.

"Being a volunteer, promoting and educating, meeting new people, the number of the entires, the shows and contest — it all happens here and continues to be a staple for our community."

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