49th Maple Leaf Festival ends in style


Levi Andrew | The Chart

Local groups including the Shriners cruise through the streets of Carthage, Mo, during the 49th annual Maple Leaf Festival Parade on Oct. 17, 2015. The parade is the culmination of the month long festival that involves activities ranging from a dog show to a lip-syncing competition.

Tens of thousands of people lined the downtown streets of the historic Carthage Square on a chilly Saturday morning for the 49th annual Maple Leaf Parade. The month-long Maple Leaf Festival culminated with the parade that featured almost 140 diverse entries.

This year’s theme was Memories in the Making. The event included a variety of food, live music and an arts and craft show.

“We’ve been coming to the parade for as long as I can remember,” said Carthage resident Gayle Hendricks. “Our grandchildren love watching the floats go by and collecting all the candy they throw our way.”

The two-mile parade route included dozens of fl oats as well as performances by some of the area’s best school bands, including Carl Junction, Webb City, Joplin and Lebanon.

This year’s sweepstakes award winner was the float created by Leggett & Platt, which was awarded a cash prize for the effort. Ajinomoto Windsor was the winner of the Chamber’s Choice Award, and Avilla Schools took home the Special Recognition Award.

“My favorite thing about coming to the Maple Leaf Parade is the incredible sense of community that you feel when you’re here,” said 60-year-old Joplin resident Danny Thomas. “That small town charm that this parade has reminds me of when I was growing up.”

The Maple Leaf Festival began as a competition for marching bands in 1966 and takes it name from the changing colors of the autumn leaves. The Carthage Chamber of Commerce estimates that an average of 80,000 people attends some portion of the month-long festival.

Other activities leading up to the parade included a 5K/10K, beauty pageants, baby and toddler contests, a dog show and dog skill competition, a gospel sing and a lip-syncing competition.

One of the most popular groups amongst the crowd was the Willie Arthur Smith’s Marching Cobras, who according to Thomas have come down from Kansas City to march in the parade for decades.

“It was so cool to see them doing flips and dancing all together; they were awesome,” said 11-year-old Emily Hendricks. Event organizers have already started planning next year’s event. The Chamber expects the 50th anniversary of the festival to be the biggest and best yet.