Planning for the 21st annual revival of the Swanton Corn Festival is well under way. Set to take place on Aug. 17 at 10:30 a.m., the parade is shaping up, with entries coming in from both new and old sources.
The theme of the parade this year is Harvest Moon in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Entry forms can be found on the Corn Festival website, swantoncornfest.com. For organizational purposes, the deadline is July 30; however, late entries will be accepted and may be placed at the end of the parade.
Last year’s parade had approximately 70 entries combining the young and old of the community. There were many Swanton High School organizations, as well as many Swanton Alumni Reunion floats. The parade also consisted of nine marching bands, various baton groups, Shriners, area churches, and many local restaurants and businesses. Entries so far for this year’s parade are on track to be the same.
The parade route will remain the same this year as it was last year. It will start at the corner of Main Street and Brookside Drive, head south on Main, and turn west on Dodge Street, ending at the corner of Dodge and Munson. From here, entries can either turn down Munson and head straight to the festival or turn into the high school parking lot, where they started.
Last year, the parade route had to be moved from its most recent route, which traveled down West Garfield Avenue because of work on the bridge.
“Much thought, research, conversation, and deliberation went into this decision,” said Pam Kazmierczak, the parade chair. “I would first like to address what the problems were with the Garfield route. There are two main concerns: traffic control on Munson at the end of the route and increased train traffic. I have been looking for an alternative route after trying to solve these problems for numerous years with no success.”
The Garfield route requires entries to cross the tracks twice, she added. Most of the entries need to cross them again to return to their vehicles, not only during the actual parade route but at the end of the parade, This combines with the second big issue. Kazmierczak said there is complete chaos on Munson at the end of the parade.
“We put up road closed barriers but that never stopped people from turning on Munson from both Airport Highway or Dodge, even with volunteers stationed there,” she said. “With just considering the marching bands, not any other entry, you have approximately 700 teenagers in the street with approximately 17 buses lining the street. The police are strapped with stationing personnel at the tracks and intersections along the parade route. Manpower to control the second set of tracks and the road closings on that end were not feasible to cover.”
Kazmierczak said in the last couple of years, since the addition of the rail yard, train traffic has increased, and the trains move more slowly through town.
“I took a Saturday morning last month and counted the number of trains between 10:30 and noon. There were nine of them. At one point, two were coming in opposite directions, so they were even going slower—gates were down over six minutes. That may not seem like a long time, but piece together that times nine during a parade that normally lasts just over an hour.”
Not only does that make for a parade with lots of huge gaps, the increased train traffic can add a safety issue for the marching bands. Many of them are large, and the decision whether or not to start across the tracks should not be a guessing game for the officer in charge at the crossing, Kazmierczak said.
The past route had 1.4 miles of viewing space, with many of the participants traveling a total of two miles to make the loop back to their starting point or a designated ending point. The current parade route has 1.1 miles of viewing space. It ends in such a way that the majority of the participants can go right back into the high school parking lot to retrieve their vehicles. Non-walkers have the option of turning left on Munson to head toward the park.
“The officer that would have been used at the tracks, can now be located at the intersection of Munson and Dodge,” said Kazmierczak. The same popular viewing areas along Main Street are available in the uptown, area as well as by the Methodist Church, where lots of additional parking is available. On Dodge, viewers can utilize the large parking lot at the stadium, as well as Faith Lutheran Church’s lot, and they can park down Fairfield.
“I have been working on the Corn Festival Parade Committee, or participating in the parade, since it’s revival,” Kazmierczak said. “This has always been an issue, and the parade has had many different routes over the last 20 years. I understand that taking it past the festival is ideal, which is why the route down Garfield was attempted. After last year, being forced to rethink the issue, it was decided that the current route is the best.”