The streets were lined with people and children scrambled to snag as many pieces of candy as they could as Nebraskaland Days on Parade celebrated the festival’s 50th anniversary in North Platte.
For nearly three hours, the floats, horses, bands, dancers and celebrities filed by, tossing goodies to the little ones along the way.
Roy, 97, and Lily Hild were the honored guests on the Disabled Veterans float, and they rode on a nice comfortable couch.
“It’s a real nice ride,” Roy said with a laugh. “I served in World War II. I flew the B-29 and was stationed in Guam.”
Roy still works at Hild Propane and fills and carries the bottles of propane for customers.
The parade also drew folks from both ends of the state.
“I came to celebrate my granddaughter’s birthday today and enjoy the parade,” said Gregorio Sosa of Imperial.
Betty and Ray Stawniak of Valley come every year.
“We come every year to see the parade and to see our great-grandchildren,” Betty said. “They live here in North Platte.”
She said they go to the rodeo, the car show parade and the big parade.
“My favorite part of Nebraskaland Days is the bull riding,” Ray said.
The good humor lined the Nebraskaland Days parade route from Fourth Street and onto South Dewey Street. Cheerleaders, bands, floats, pickup trucks, horses, politicians and soldiers threw candy, handed out water bottles or icy pops, sprayed water guns and shook hands.
As a parade float with an inflated Nebraska Sower made its way down South Dewey Street, one man stopped to pretend to hand off his string holding the tall float to spectator kids. The kids were happy to help, but he quickly laughed and waved them off, letting them know he’d been joking. Soon, his companions were shouting at him to move along.
“I got distracted,” he shouted back with a laugh.
The parade was part of a homecoming for Jo Melgoza, who moved to the Houston area in 2014. She made the drive back to the state festival with her great-granddaughter, Liberty Grace Easley, who throughout the trip asked about the parade, Melgoza said. The two plan to stay until July 1.
The parade was also a first for Latoya Webb, who moved to North Platte eight months ago from Jamaica to be a nurse at Great Plains Health. While Webb has balanced the state celebration with her work schedule, she took in the sights with her daughter, Shaddaena, 14, and son, Jayden, 4.
Kent Edington and Shelly Edington of Dickens have viewed the parade from the same spot every year since they started coming to Nebraskaland Days.
“We’ve been coming to the parade about 40 years,” Kent said. “We always enjoy it, seeing all the different floats and the horses and everything.”
They bring their grandchildren for a good reason.
“We have fun watching the grandkids get the candy,” Kent said.
As is tradition, parade spectators set up their seats and reserved spots as early as Friday afternoon, but not everyone vied for the front row.
As a float of Nebraskaland Days board members turned the last corner onto E Street, they threw an entire bag of unused candy to the spectators.
“It’s good to be at the end,” one man said as his son ran to the candy.