JOPLIN, Mo. —
As drum major Asa Hamilton called the Joplin North Middle School Band to attention at 24th and Main streets, a tuba player was missing — he was searching with a flashlight for a lost mouthpiece in a nearby vacant lot.
Whether he found it in time to play “Feliz Navidad” in the annual Joplin Christmas Parade or whether his tuba was silent for the duration is anyone’s guess, but the band marched as planned and at the judge’s station at Sixth and Main streets drew loud cheers from spectators.
The band was one of 150 entries in this year’s version of the Joplin Jaycees’ annual parade, with many entries that each featured a slightly different mode of transportation. There were gymnasts with The Flip Shop who walked down Main Street on their hands for the majority of the route, and there was Sabrina Purkey and Amber Truitt rolling along in their shabby chic “Two Friends & Junk” entry — a 1969 pink Chevrolet truck pulling a 1968 Scotty camper.
A dozen women with Mo-Kan Roller Derby Girlz each used eight wheels to traverse Main Street from 24th to First Street, and then sprinted back to where they parked for a distance of four miles.
“This is awesome!” a few yelled as they passed.
Austin Gilbert, a member of the Missouri Southern State University cheerleading squad, traveled the parade from a Flip Shop trampoline on a flatbed truck and reached heights of about 20 feet.
In front of the Frisco Building, he went beyond the traffic lights, and nearly reached the second story.
“Oh no — oh my — oh — wow!” said spectator Brenda Wright nervously from the curb, worried that he’d go over the edge. It was the Webb City woman’s first time in attendance.
“I came with my husband, Ron, to see my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren ride on a float for Burkhart Construction,” she said. “They’ll be coming any minute.”
Shannon Newby Johnson, also of Webb City, waited eagerly with her two sons, Dylan, 10, and Alex, 9, hoping to get a glimpse of Santa.
“He’s always my favorite,” she laughed. “Even at this age.”
Also drawing cheers from spectators was an entry that has contributed to the rebuilding of Joplin in the past 18 months, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity. The float featured a miniature homemade entirely of miscellaneous donated items from the organization’s Restore.
“The floats are what I like best,” said Alex Johnson.
Annette Thurston, Ronald McDonald House, officiated as a judge for the event and noted that it was one of the prettiest nights for a parade Joplin has seen in many years.
“It’s just beautiful,” she said. “Everything is beautiful. We couldn’t have asked for a better night.”
• The overall winning entry was Holden Buildings and Hornet Pentecostal Church.
• Best theme trophy: Immanuel Lutheran Church.
• Best lighting: Two Friends & Junk.
• Best animation: Heritage Youth Development.
• Best construction: Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity.
• Best sound: Joplin Youth Cheerleading Association.