GREENFIELD – Dozens of children and their families marched down the center of State and Main streets on Friday for the annual Riley Festival flower parade, with a trio of drummers merrily leading the way.
Festival vendors and guests used their cell phones to record the sweet scene of children with flowers clasped in their hands, heading to place them at the foot of the James Whitcomb Riley statue at the front of the Hancock County Courthouse.
It’s a hometown tradition that has been enjoyed by Greenfield school children for generations. Due to schools being out for fall break, the parade has since been opened to everyone in the community.
“It’s a great time to be in Greenfield,” said mayor Chuck Fewell as he helped the Riley Festival princesses place flowers on the statue Friday afternoon.
“This is such a great tradition with such a rich history. It really brings the community together,” he said.
Hancock County council member Keely Butrum remembers walking down to the festival when she was a student at the former Lincoln Park Elementary School some 30 years ago, carrying flowers wrapped in wet paper towel and aluminum foil.
“I loved it as a kid and I still love it today,” said Butrum, who passed on the tradition to her 4-year-old son, Baxter, who walked in his first Parade of Flowers this year.
Friday’s parade made a big impact on young mom Genna Booth, who recently relocated her family to Greenfield after living in a small town in Maryland.
“This is so nice. This is exactly the kind of hometown feel we were looking for,” said Booth, whose husband, Andrew Alcorn, took a job in Indianapolis this year.
With her pregnant belly leading the way, Booth led her 2-year-old son by the hand and pulled his 3-year-old twin sisters in a little red wagon as they walked in their first Riley Festival flower parade on Friday.
The busy mom was all smiles as her family strolled amongst the crowd of other families.
“This makes me really happy we decided to move here,” said Booth, whose fourth child is due at the end of October.
Teresa Skelley was also grinning as she walked in the parade alongside her daughter, Brittany Hill, and grandchildren Ethan, 12; Ellie, 9; and 7-year-old twins, Caleb and Cora.
Skelley cherishes memories of walking in the parade as a child, a tradition she passed along to her daughter as soon as she could.
“She was just 8 months old and her dad had her all wrapped up in a blanket so you could barely see her face,” said Skelley, 64, who now loves sharing the tradition with her grandchildren.
The whole family carried flowers in this year’s parade, which is just one of the many Riley Festival traditions they enjoy each year.
“My kids do the pumpkin decoration contest each year, and the girls have done the Little Miss Riley contest,” said Hill, 34, who looks forward to attending the festival with her family each year.
“It’s very nostalgic for us. We love the small-town feel,” she said.
Skelley’s mother also loved the festival, and made a point to enjoy a lemon shakeup, a turkey leg and some chicken and noodles each year.
“Since she passed away last year I’m going to make sure I stop and enjoy some of her favorite things,” Skelley said.