It is a celebration of our community!
The 2019 Annual St. Helens Kiwanis Community Parade will flow through the city beginning precisely at 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 15.
The parade route goes down Columbia Boulevard into Old Town.
Longtime Kiwanis member and the club’s media spokesperson, Don Patterson, said the event draws thousands of people each June to St. Helens. He said the history of the parade goes back years.
“The parade began in the '70s or '80s,” Patterson said. “There used to be an event in town called ‘Port-O-Fun’ and it had many elements, alcohol being at the forefront and the parade was part of that celebration.”
Patterson said the Junior Chamber of Commerce (JC’s) had organized and put on ‘Port-O-Fun’ as a fundraiser.
“At that time the JC’s were a very active organization and they put on that event with the parade for a number of years," Patterson said.
But in the late 80s or early 90s, according to Patterson, the JC’s stopped the events and the parade.
“And that’s when Kiwanis picked up the parade and we have done it ever since,” he said. “Kiwanis does it as a public service for the community. We feel it is a community parade and it is a value to the people.”
Patterson said the strength of the parade is the local people that participate.
“Pretty much any body can participate in it,” he said. “We have categories for floats, old cars, mudders, the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, a number of civic organizations, the Sheriff’s Posse, Columbia County and Tillamook Rodeo Courts and any other groups that want to bring their horses.”
Patterson said there is no entry fee. Registration can take place before the parade or the day of the event. A sign-up booth will be placed across from the Chamber of Commerce office at Milton Way and Columbia Boulevard.
Patterson said many of the parade entrants build floats to participate in the parade.
“Many of them also throw candy along the parade route and that is a big draw,” he said.
“We do judging and we give away trophies in each category for the best float and for the best presentation,” he said.
This year, the Kiwanis have been able to sign up the 204th Army Marching Band, a military group that performs across the country.
“The high school band has not participated in many years,” Patterson said. “We would love to see the high school marching band in there, but we also understand that the problems that they have is that school is out and kids are gone, so it is real difficult to put that together.”
Before the noontime parade start at Milton Way and Columbia Boulevard, participants line up and many begin decorating their float.
“We stage all these groups on the streets between Columbia Boulevard and St. Helens Street and we fill up all the way to about 15th Street,” he said.
Patterson said last year, there were about 42 groups in the parade and Patterson estimated the event drew approximately 10,000 to 15,000 spectators.
“It is pretty well packed, and it seems to have gotten more popular over the last few years,” he said. “I think people like it because it is a sense of community.”
Patterson said he enjoys taking part in the parade each year.
“I like it,” he said. “It is just the excitement and the energy. All these people are there, and they are dressed up in costumes. They are doing their dance or whatever it happens to be. It is just a lot of fun.”
Dozens of Kiwanis members take part in organizing and running the parade.
“Kiwanis Parade coordinator Tori Sullivan has put a ton of hours in organizing this year’s parade,” Patterson said.
Members of the St. Helens High School Key Club and the St. Helens Youth Council have volunteered to help clean up the streets and sidewalks following the parade.
Patterson said planning for next year’s parade has already started.