By MATT KOESTERS
As the sounds of children laughing, marching band music, horns and sirens filled the air, hundreds of people gathered along Ind. 31 in Henryville — many in front of the town’s newly rebuilt high school — to watch the Henryville Community Day Parade.
Sixty-four vehicles and floats participated in the parade, of which more than half were emergency-response vehicles. Even the Carmel Fire Department had a sport-utility vehicle honking at the crowd of onlookers in a display with the still-recovering community. Local businesses, politicians and youth organizations like Henryville Youth Sports and the Henryville High School volleyball team formed the balance.
“Where else can you see a chicken drive a John Deere?” quipped HHS teacher Robin Embry as a float sponsored by Tanner’s Store rolled by.
As the parade, a community staple, was the first since the March 2 tornadoes that cut a swathe of destruction through the Henryville community, perhaps it’s no surprise that the event drew a larger estimated crowd than in years past.
“I think there’s a little more than in years past,” Monroe Township Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Furnish said. “I think everyone wanted to come out and sort of help support the community, and we had several different departments that came in that were actually here during the rescue mode and stuff.”
The local fire department organizes the parade each year, and as usual, this year’s parade had several last-minute entries. The Utica Fire Department added to the host of flashing red-and-white lights, while the Henryville Elementary School cheerleaders also came out.
“It’s always nice to have surprises show up,” MTVFD secretary Kasey Taylor said.
Furnish said that the parade is another sign that the community is recovering from the destruction.
“I just think it is another sort of link in the chain. The first part was getting the school back open and getting the kids back in there,” Furnish said, “and now with this here, everybody can join together for more pleasant times. And I’m sure everybody’s still going to be talking the tornado, but now, with a nice sunny day and people are just going to be able to fellowship under good terms now.”
Taylor said the tornadoes and everything everyone had been through this year brought them closer. “We normally have a good turnout, but this is wonderful,” Taylor said.
After the parade, the crowd folded up lawn chairs and headed up to the Henryville Community Center, where a variety of booths were set up. Some sold food — cotton candy, funnel cakes and barbecue sandwiches all drew lines — while others sold merchandise like candles and Tupperware. Others offered games to raise funds for community organizations like churches, the Henryville Golden Band and the local Cub Scouts troop.
“Today has been very good,” said Sharon Roederer, a parent with the Henryville Golden Band. “It’s great to see the community come together as a whole, and we’re rebuilding, and we’re coming together, and it’s just been a wonderful afternoon to see the community come out and really support everybody.”