Parrish celebrates Heritage Day with parade, chili cook-off

ejohnson@bradenton.comMarch 2, 2013 

PARRISH -- It was a day for celebrating community, history and food at the Parrish Heritage Day Parade and Chili Cook-off Saturday.

Floats made by organizations, schools and churches filled the lot behind Parrish Fire Department, waiting for their police escort down 121st Avenue East. Candy and necklaces were thrown to those lining the street, waving and smiling at the passersby.

The First Baptist Church of Parrish's float was hard to miss with brightly colored pinwheels spinning on the trailer. The "Singing Spirits," a choir of young girls, performed for the crowd.

"I think it's a good thing for everyone to hear Christian music," said Cecelia Browning, 11. "And it's super fun."

Members of the church crafted flowers, a skirt for the trailer and collars for the girl's robes.

Norma Kennedy, wearing a hand-sewn dress and bonnet of Civil War era design, took a horse-drawn buggy down the route as Grand Marshal.

"I was speechless," Kennedy said when she was given the title. "It's quite and honor and I am humbled to be asked to do this."

Kennedy is part of the Parrish Community Performance Project.

"We share oral histories of the pilgrim families," Kennedy said. "We do plays and tell life stories of those who first settled here."

About 40 students from Annie Lucy Williams Elementary School wore red T-shirts, showing off their Wolfpack pride. Some students walked, others rode in a trailer decorated on each side with their signatures.

"It's so fun for them," said Debby Hampton, Williams Elementary registrar. "I love this because it's a small town thing. You don't see that very often."

The parade wound around to the Florida Railroad Museum where bounce houses, activities and pots of chili were waiting.

"It used to just be the parade and after that everyone left," said Ben Jordan, vice president of the Parrish Foundation. "We started thinking what we could do after. So we added some fun activities. Last year we started the chili cook-off."

From mango to peppers and gator bites to smoked meat, 22 teams provided their spin on the hot meal that was welcome on a cool day.

"We went from 12 teams last year to 22," Jordan said. "Everyone has a different recipe."

Proceeds from the day's events benefit the Parrish Foundation.

"We just funded $18,000 in grants for charities working in Parrish," said Jordan, adding that about 2,500 attended last year's celebration. "Our goal this year is to raise $30,000."

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041.

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