GREENSBURG – Organizers are preparing for the annual 4th of July Tri Kappa Parade, originally known as The July 4th Children’s Parade.

This marks the 100th anniversary of the local tradition, which features children on bicycles adorned in the colors of the United States flag leading the community in a celebration of our nation’s independence.

Parade organizer and Tri Kappa Sorority member Andi McKee told the Daily News about its history.

“Mrs. Guy Guthrie started the parade in 1919 on Franklin Street with the kids in the neighborhood just to keep them from getting in trouble, setting off all kinds of fireworks, and to keep them out of mischief in the summer,” she explained. “It just started from there, and in 1941 Guthrie’s sorority, the Omega Chapter of Kappa Kappa Kappa, took it over after her death and continued the tradition into what it is today.”

McKee described the event as “a Greensburg thing,” and said organizers would be thrilled if Greensburg families helped “give it back to the children, as was its original intention.”

“I’m happy it’s become a tradition, but I think it’s lost a bit of the meaning of why it was started,” McKee said.

In an article from the Daily News dated June 5, 1944, its origins were explained:

“The original event started in 1919 as a small patriotic dress party for a few neighborhood friends of the Guthrie children on Franklin Street. Conceived as a unique solution to the problem of keeping her own children out of the danger from the use of fireworks, it was a good way to get them excited about the birth of the United States as well.

“The children were allowed to go from the Guthrie home to the drug store on the square to display their costumes to their father. Each year, the invited guests became more numerous until the annual trip to the drug store became a parade.

“The event grew in proportion until it became the community July 4th parade, incorporating the entire city. All children of the city were cordially invited to join in, and were escorted by the Greensburg Police, with the Greensburg High School marching band for music.”

In March 1949, the parade involved as many as 300 children of all ages, from infants in strollers to teenagers, and attracted numerous out-of-town visitors and former residents of Greensburg.

“It’s always been for the kids. That’s why there’s no politicking, there’s no businesses, and it’s just about fun and kids. It’s all about taking part in something that doesn’t have a registration, it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s one of the very few things left in life for which you can just show up and be a part of something,” McKee said. “We see so many kids along the parade route, and that’s why we don’t throw candy and we don’t advertise. It’s because we want those kids to join in, to be the main part, the focal point of the parade.”

Without serious rules, registration, or all of the organizational hoopla accompanying most public events, McKee stressed, “We have assigned different parts in the lineup for the horses, and for kids on bikes and for class reunion members. No rules. Whoever wants to join in, show up and be in a parade!”

In an article from 1951, the parade route was described:

“The parade will form at the late residence of the parade originator, Mrs. Guthrie at 632 North Franklin street. It will move south onto Washington street, west on Washington to Broadway, north on Broadway to Hendricks, east on Hendricks back to Franklin and arriving back at its starting place on the 600 block of N. Franklin.”

The route has only changed slightly since its early days.

The lineup will begin on Franklin Street in front of Porter-Oliger-Pearson Funeral Home, head south toward the Decatur County Courthouse Square, then west on Washington Street, and eventually head north on Broadway Street before ending at Gilliland-Howe Funeral Home.

The parade will start at 10 a.m. July 4, but participants can begin lining up at 9:15 a.m. Tri Kappa members will be available to direct participants to starting positions.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-5660 or email at bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com.

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