Board: Festival event still on

GREENFIELD — The annual Children’s Parade of Flowers will still be conducted in 2016, local officials say, regardless of whether Greenfield-Central schools adopt a calendar that puts children out on fall break during the event.

Anthony Scott, president of the Riley Festival board, said the board will continue the festival’s tradition of children laying flowers at the feet of the James Whitcomb Riley statue, regardless of which calendar option the school board chooses.

Logistics will still have to be worked out, Scott said, but the board is willing to do whatever it takes to continue the 65-plus year tradition, even if it means organizing a parade without the help of Greenfield-Central officials, who have historically bused the children downtown for the event.

Options include opening the parade up to more students than just the city’s third-graders — which would presumably make up for a drop in attendance for those on vacation — or making it a family event that includes parents.

“We’re exploring different options at this point,” Scott said. “It’s kind of still very early in the stages. In the past, (parents) may have gone through it, so it’s kind of a nostalgic feel.”

The Greenfield-Central school board is considering four calendar options for the 2016-17 school year; three put fall break during the first week of October.

That could have hampered the Children’s Parade of Flowers, during which third-graders walk through downtown Greenfield to the courthouse statute of the Hoosier poet.

For years, Greenfield-Central schools partnered with the Riley Festival board to transport children to the event, but if school is not in session, it will be up to the festival board alone to continue the tradition.

Scott said he had a phone conversation with Superintendent Harold Olin recently on the matter.

“It’s ultimately a decision up to them,” Scott said. “They’ve always been great supporters of the flower parade, and we would love to have them as part of the event, whether they’re in session or not. How that’s going to play out, I’m not sure.”

The tradition to honor the Hoosier children’s poet started because it was school children from across the country who pooled their pennies together to purchase the statue for the Hancock County Courthouse lawn. The statue was erected in 1918.

Scott said the tradition is too precious for the community to end, regardless of the circumstances to organize the parade. He said there’s even some sense of excitement in re-inventing the parade.

“When you open the doors, who knows what can happen?” he said. “I think in the past, even last year, we had somewhere around 1,000 children participating. It could be even more, especially when they’re not in session and (there are) kids who haven’t gone anywhere for fall break or whatever. What a great opportunity to participate with their parents, if it turns out that way.”

Olin said he was pleased with how the conversation went with Scott, and the schools could help spread the word to parents about changes in the 2016 Children’s Parade of Flowers.

School board member Kathy Dowling said she was glad to hear the flower parade would continue.

“The Riley Festival is a part of Greenfield, and everyone is really vested in it,” she said. “It makes it easier to know what we’re considering, what it does to them and their thoughts and feelings.”

School board member Dan Leary said he’s also pleased with the attitude of the Riley Festival board. The board will discuss the calendar at its meeting Monday.

“I appreciate Anthony’s willingness to work with whatever happens,” he said.

School officials are asking for parents to give feedback on the four calendar options: they can be found at Comments can be emailed to Leary said while he’d like to learn more about what the community thinks before picking a calendar, he’d be surprised if they get a lot of feedback.

“People just aren’t concerned and they look at the calendar that ‘It is what it is’ and ‘We’ll deal with it when the time comes.’”