SUNNYSIDE — An annual tradition for about 68 years, the Kiwanis Kids Day Parade for pre-school through sixth grade youth came to an official end after Ariana Jimenez, 12, and Jabes Flores, 10, won the drawing for a brand-new girl’s and boy’s bike on Saturday, June 1, at Centennial Park.
Earlier in the week, Flores said he informed his mom that he wanted a bicycle for his birthday. That was before he rode home on the new bike, which was donated by Ace Hardware.
“I’m going to ride my new bike to school,” the fifth grade Washington Elementary School student enthusiastically stated. “It’s going to be a fun summer.”
The Sunnyside Kiwanis Club began serving the community in 1948. Between 1950-51, the kid’s parade became an annual event, recalled Club Secretary Jim Sleater, who was teaching at the junior high school during the mid-70s.
As the parade has grown smaller over the years, so has the club’s membership – the reason why the organization has decided to disband, he noted.
“You feel bad because we do a lot of different things for the community and for kids… and hate to see it disappear, but it’s just kind of the way things are going,” expressed Sleater, a retired band teacher and club member since 1986.
Participation ribbons and coupons for a little dude burger, along with a chance to win a bike and other prizes contributed to making the downtown journey memorable. The police escort and opportunity to cruise in their lane, with family and friends also helped in creating a special day for kids.
The marching band featured students from Harrison and Sierra Vista Middle schools. The all-star group led the11 a.m. parade from Kiwanis Youth Park, located at 509 Doolittle Ave. down Sixth Street to the community bandstand.
Costumed participants, including a Seahawk jersey wearing dog with short legs, traveled the route on two feet or four paws, rode decorated bikes, scooters, tricycles, wagons and battery powered vehicles.
There was one princess whose battery charged carriage ran out of juice, and she walked the rest of the way – the sweet and frozen treat of a cream popsicle was apparently all the drive required.
“We meet early mornings and I know younger people would prefer that we met at different times and not one set time,” said Kiwanis Club President Cherry Fairbanks and first woman member back in the early 1990s. “They really don’t want to listen to a speech. They want to volunteer.”