GREENFIELD — Nolan McConnell built a child-sized basketball goal with a bucket beneath it.
The goal: challenge each passing float in the Hancock County 4-H Fair Parade to toss candy and other treats in the blue bucket — after all, what born-and-raised Hoosier could resist a little hoops action?
The 5-year-old, son of Shawn and Emily McConnell, joined hundreds of county residents who lined the parade route to see the tractors, police cars and fire engines making up the 2017 parade, which was held for the first time at 6 p.m. Saturday instead of the traditional Sunday afternoon. Parade organizers aimed to encourage higher attendance by scheduling the parade at a cooler time of day.
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It was a risk that paid off, organizers said: nearly 50 entrants, from floats built by local businesses and 4-H clubs to monster trucks promoting their Sunday event registered to be a part of the parade, more than the 37 that signed up for last year’s event, officials said.
And there appeared to be more people who watched the parade, then packed up their picnic blankets and camp chairs to peruse the booths and exhibits at the fair across the street from the parade’s kickoff point, said parade chair Barb Pescitelli.
Pescitelli, who has brought up the rear of the parade for some six years, taking a visual survey of where the parade-watchers sit and how many there are, is confident the time change encouraged more families to enjoy one of the city’s biggest traditions of the year.
Organizers plan to schedule the 2018 fair parade for the late afternoon Saturday time slot again, she said.
They weren’t the only ones trying new things Saturday.
Nolan aimed to improve on his candy-catching strategy. He found the kids, politicians and owners of local businesses riding floats in the parade last year appreciated a target — his grandfather’s umbrella, turned upside down — but he drew the attention of the treat-tossers this year with the basketball goal and his shouts of “Make a basket!”
Nolan and some other clever parade-watchers found if they could make the people dishing out candy laugh, they could probably cajole them into tossing more treats their way.
Gabe Cochard, 18, a 10-year 4-H’er, sat with a group of friends in camp chairs along the route on Park Ave., near the cattle barns. He wasn’t interested in trying too hard for sweet treats, but he wasn’t about to pass up candy that came his way.
He held up a cattle feed bowl beseechingly to the people on passing floats and in classic cars.
“My cows are starving!” he shouted, drawing laughs from passing marchers.
The parade attracted 4-H’ers taking a break from grooming their livestock and those simply attending the fair to the fairgrounds and parade route.
Kevin and Sharon Wood of New Palestine watched the spectacle of tractors and monster trucks for the first time in years, Sharon Wood said.
Their children are grown, at 27 and 30, but now, they get to see the yearly traditions through the eyes of their granddaughter, she said. They could hardly wait to see her reactions to the cattle, llamas and alpacas lining the stalls of the fairgrounds livestock buildings.
Daphne Allender of Fortville, guarding a double stroller with her twin daughters, also watched the parade for the first time on Saturday, surprised by how many different entries made up the hour-long event.
“We were really impressed,” she said.
Several of those lining the parade route were present to witness family members’ first-time fair experiences.
Lori Jackson watched the parade to see her children, Shelby and Jacob Jackson, riding the Country Kritters parade float. She thought the later start time might help keep the 4-H’ers riding floats cooler.
Just a few feet away, Jrue Wallen, 4, rode the shoulders of his father, Daniel Wallen, to better see the procession.
Their family showed up early, but it was worth the wait, he said. The kids loved the parade.