When I saw that the theme of the 2019 Derby High School Homecoming Parade is “Derby Panthers: Now and Then,” I thought it was a perfect way to celebrate one of the most nostalgic of community traditions.

This year’s theme celebrates both DHS spirit and Derby’s 150th anniversary. Parade entries are asked to use the theme to show an aspect of Derby in the past or present or celebrate school spirit. In a way, that’s what it feels like every homecoming parade does. I can’t even remember the parade themes from the years I attended DHS or the years I attended the parade as a youngster, but the homecoming parade has always served as a bridge between Derby past, present, and future.

Who can’t remember rushing to put the finishing touches (usually involving spray paint and/or tissue paper) on a rickety float in the minutes before the parade begins? Or waving to the homecoming court royalty as they roll by in freshly waxed convertibles? Or growing excited hearing the distant beat of the marching band grow louder, step by step? And, of course, who doesn’t remember the throwing and collecting of candy?

I was dismayed to learn that the Wichita Riverfest Sundown Parade had banned candy a couple years ago. I am told it is to protect the storm drains, which is a worthy cause, but have a hard time getting excited about a parade without candy. I was relieved to see that Derby’s children still show up to the parade with an empty sack in hand. Many of the groups marching in the parade have no float or gimmick, just matching t-shirts, and the dignity of supplying sugar and artificial colors to the city’s youth. Take away the candy and all you have left are t-shirts. I digress.

Parades don’t exist without an audience. I think that’s what makes the homecoming parade feel like such a community tradition - in a strange way, it’s a community performance where the spectators are just as needed as the floats, band, and the rest of the parade. We are united - past, present, and future panthers, and residents of Derby. We are all part of this community and our high school’s celebration.

This year’s parade is scheduled for September 26th at 6:00 P.M.. I hope I’ll see you there - with lots of Derby pride and lots and lots of candy.

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