By Gretchen Teske,The JOURNAL
BRIGHTON - Hundreds of people beat the heat to watch as the parade passed by in celebration of the 108th Whoopee Days. Over 40 entries made it to the parade this year with the theme ?Made in the USA? in mind.
Originally, Whoopee Days had a different name, but in the 1920s the streets were repaved and the town held a party in the street to celebrate. The popular phrase of the era was, ?whoopee.? As people shouted it repeatedly, the phrase stuck and the celebration was named for it.
Jessica Lowe-Bokes, a chamber member, has been involved in the parade and Whoopee Days her whole life. ?It?s something different every year,? she says. ?It?s really nice for a size of place Brighton is.? Fire departments from Wellman, Lockridge, Washington, Kalona and Brighton all showed up to celebrate and for the past 22 years, Jessica has been the announcer and calls out each one. ?That?s my favorite part,? she says.
Parade planning runs in the family as Jessica?s sister, Stacie Lowe, is the coordinator. She says planning the event would be much harder if she didn?t have volunteers and gives them credit for the success. ?To make it happen you have to have a lot of volunteers,? she said. Although finding volunteers is not always easy, and according to Lowe, is the most difficult part. ?The people will come, (but) the volunteers, it?s a struggle,? she said.
Despite the struggle, Lowe says seeing the joy it brings everyone makes the hard work worth it. ?Seeing the kids have pure joy on their faces makes it worth it for me,? she says. ?We?re small, but when we have (success in) something like this, it shows the resilience of the community.?
A new tradition this year was having the Brighton Vietnam vets be the Grand Marshals. This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of their coming home and an opportunity to celebrate them for their sacrifices. ?It?s important that all generations know,? said Sue Rich, the Washington County Veterans Service Officer. ?We?re still reaching out to our vets and giving them the welcome back they never got.?
Among those riding with the vets was Ed Owens who dressed for the occasion in his Navy uniform. He and his wife Darlene live along the parade route and decorated the outside of their home with American flags for the occasion. The vets have never been honored before and the Owenses think this is as good a time as any. ?They had a terrible coming back,? Darlene said. ?So this is a real honor.?
The Washington American Legion Post 29 followed the vets in the parade, with a float of their own. ?Given the age of some of the gentlemen, they do not like to walk anymore,? joked legion member Lonny Milligan. The legion is in several parades every year but Milligan was especially happy to see a patriotic theme carrying through in this one.
Before the parade began, judges appraised entries in five categories: churches, business, tractors, cars and horses. Judge Heidi Darrington has been participating in the parade since she was five years old but this is her first year as a judge. ?We?re looking for folks to stick to the theme,? she said. ?We had a lot of good options to choose from.?
As they passed, Lowe-Bokes called out the winners as follows:
First place, Brighton Community Churches VBS
First place: CaMander?s Bar and Grill
Second place: Federation Bank
Third place: Mid States Flooring
First place: Melvin Mullikin of Packwood, 1961 Ford Diesel
Second place: Jerome Vittetoe of Washington, 1206 Wheatland
Third place: Wayne Hoyle of Brighton, 1937 A John Deere
First place: Dan Bigger of Gladstone, Ill., 1958 Chevy Apache
Second place: Mineart Family Farms of Earlham, 1925 Model T
Third place: Brian and Rovin Arnold of Brighton, 1974 Chevy Custom 10
First place: Lindsay and JP Adam of Brighton on Babe
Second place: Brooke and Bentley Hesseltine on Skip