Rifle parades its stuff down Railroad Avenue
Post Independent Staff
The southbound Colorado Air National Guard helicopter signaled its arrival with a leisurely “flap, flap, flap,” as it lumbered above Railroad Avenue in Rifle Saturday morning.
When the slow-moving chopper reached Interstate 70, it banked sharply to the east, dropped down, set a course straight north above Railroad Avenue, then tore out over the treetops with a loud hum.
“That was really low,” Ellen Quigley said to her daughter, Marianne Ackerman, as they watched the helicopter quickly zoom out of sight behind the trees over Heinze Park.
Hundreds of eyes followed the helicopter, whose quick trip up Railroad Avenue marked the 10:10 a.m. start of Saturday morning’s Garfield County Fair parade. The parade was least a mile and an hour long.
“We have over 60 entries,” said parade co-announcer Keith Lambert from a flatbed trailer at the shade-covered Heinze Park. “That’s up from previous parades.”
Lambert, who split announcing duties with Judy Hewitt, said the parade was organized by the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce, and didn’t have a grand marshal.
“The grand marshal is homeland security,” said Lambert, who also serves as Rifle’s mayor.
The first float, from Lyon Construction, stuck with the homeland security theme. It featured 10-foot tall replicas of the World Trade Center towers, with the Liberty Bell suspended between them. One tower was inscribed with “Never Forget” across the top, and the other, “Remember When,” with “2998 Patriots” written up and down on one side. Facsimile names of victims from the Sept. 11 attacks partially covered the towers.
Cathy Meskel, who has sent hundreds of letters to U.S. military personnel in the Middle East, is known in Rifle for tying yellow ribbons to trees and light posts near her Railroad Avenue pet store. She wore yellow ribbons on her arms and ankles, and walked the parade route handing out information about her letter-writing cause.
It took 25 Boy Scouts and adults to tote the Rifle Fire Protection District’s 28-by-40-foot American flag down the parade route.
Most of the rest of the parade entries included clowns, cowboys, cowgirls, vintage vehicles, horse-drawn wagons, Shriners cars, cheerleaders, a marching band, business and government floats, and one mint-condition replica of an 1853 Wells Fargo stagecoach.
“Everybody wants my job,” said stagecoach driver Gary Sandstread as the parade cued up at the north end of Railroad Avenue on 16th Street.
Scout Kent and Mackenzie Bina, both 10, didn’t get to ride shotgun on the stagecoach, but they did get to toss candy to the crowd from Wells Fargo money bags as they walked alongside. “They didn’t have any candy bags,” Kent said.
A few minutes later, and about 10 blocks south, 8-year-old Adrian Salgado and 12-year-old Omar Gomez were running to Railroad Avenue to get a good seat for the parade. “I’ve seen three of these before,” Salgado said before he and his friend rushed off.
The trees at Heinze Park threw shadows across Railroad Avenue through the entire parade. Some folks watched the event from short stacks of grandstands, while others watched from lawn chairs or stood on the sidewalk. Pockets of other parade watchers stretched from 18th Street to downtown at Third Street.
Alpine Bank-Rifle President Jay Rickstrew was by no means the parade grand marshal, but it was his birthday, so the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” when his float stopped in front of the review stand. “Stand up and take a bow,” Hewitt told him.
Matt Sturgeon was also singled out for parade-stopping attention, and honored for coining a slogan for Rifle’s centennial in 2005. The slogan is “Embracing our past. Shaking hands with our future.” For his effort, Sturgeon received four passes to the Rifle museum, a $50 gift certificate at Wal-Mart and a lamp.
Sturgeon urged the parade watchers to take part in the centennial activities. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.
As the parade wound down, Lambert thanked the Rifle Police Department and the Colorado State Patrol for traffic control, Domino’s Pizza for donating prize ribbons, KISS country radio, and the chamber of commerce.
“And thank you all,” Lambert concluded. “Now get yourself over to the fairgrounds. There’s something for everyone.”
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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