HANCOCK COUNTY — The annual Riley Festival Children’s Parade of Flowers will look different this year, but organizers hope changes made to the annual event after a calendar complication will spark a new tradition.

The Hancock County youngsters who march through downtown Greenfield on Oct. 7 to deliver flowers to the James Whitcomb Riley statue in front of the Hancock County Courthouse will represent schools across the county for the first time in years — and parents and families will also join the procession.

When organizers learned Greenfield-Central students, who had participated in the annual event every year, would be out of school for fall break during this year’s festival, they immediately began planning a different approach for the beloved parade.

Since Greenfield-Central elementary schools won’t be in session to bus second- and third-graders to downtown Greenfield, organizers came up with a new plan, one Riley Festival Office Administrator Linda Lowe said will lead to a more inclusive parade going forward.

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Instead of having students from one of the county’s school district be involved, kids of all ages will get to participate, she said.

Festival organizers extended invitations to elementary schools in Southern and Eastern Hancock school districts, as well St. Michael School, to join the parade for the first time in recent memory. Children from the Alpha and Omega Day Care at Trinity Park United Methodist Church in Greenfield were also invited to participate in the event. Lastly, organizers opened the event to all Hancock County children with a parent or guardian available to walk alongside them.

For more than a decade, Greenfield-Central elementary students made up the bulk of children who dropped flowers at the Riley statue. The parade honors Riley, a beloved children’s poet from Hancock County and the annual festival’s namesake.

Lowe said she expects the parade’s size to double this year compared to previous years. Last year, roughly 600 Greenfield-Central students participated in the parade.

The organization took a disappointing situation and turned it into an exciting opportunity, Lowe said.

“It becomes a little more of a family event,” she said.

Many students from Eastern Hancock Elementary School have probably never seen the statue in person or attended the parade, principal Amanda Pile wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. She’s excited they get to participate in the tradition.

This year is especially important because the state is celebrating its bicentennial, she said.

“It is another great opportunity for kids to learn more about Hancock County and Mr. Riley himself,” she said.

If you go

The Children’s Parade of Flowers will be held at 12:45 p.m. Oct. 7 along the festival’s main thoroughfare at State and Main streets. Spectators will be invited to gather along the parade route to watch children hand off flowers to the Riley Festival Queen and her court in front of the Hancock County Courthouse statue of James Whitcomb Riley.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.