PARRISH -- For 30 years, the Parrish Heritage Day Parade has been noted for its informality -- participants are invited to join the parade without registering -- and for its heartfelt "thank you" to citizens who have made a difference in the community.
This year's thanks goes to grand marshals Larry and Edie Bustle.
Larry Bustle was elected to the Manatee County Commission in 2008, after serving seven years as mayor of Palmetto.
In 2015, after recovering from a stroke, Larry Bustle announced he would not seek re-election to the Manatee County Commission: "In 2016, I will finish my second term on the County Commission and begin a new chapter in my life's journey devoted to time with my wife, Edie, my family and friends."
He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and was a career officer in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a pilot with more than 3,300 flying hours, including 130 combat missions in the F-4D Phantom II during the Vietnam War. His decorations include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, nine Air Medals and the Purple Heart.
Edie Bustle has long been active in civic activities, including the Women's Resource Center, Just for Girls, student mentoring, handbell chorus, and singing in her church choir.
The Bustles have four grown children and two grandchildren.
The 30th Parrish Heritage Day Parade steps out 10:30 a.m. Saturday from the Parrish Fire Station and proceeds north on 121st Street East to the Florida Railroad Museum, 12210 83rd St. E.
Participation has grown through the years, reflecting changes in the community. Virgil Mills Elementary and Williams Elementary, which did not exist when the parade started, are now regular participants, said organizer Cindy Chin.
Five years ago, two new events, a Parrish Heritage Festival and chili cook-off were added and are held on the grounds of the museum at the parade's conclusion.
Gates open for the festival and chili cookoff at 11 a.m. Tickets are $5 in advance, available at the Parrish 7-Eleven and the Parrish YMCA. Tickets will also be sold at the gate for $10. Kids 12 and younger are admitted free.
This year, a record 31 chili teams will be competing. For the price of admission, chili lovers get a free sample of each team's chili, said Ben Jordan, president of the Parrish Civic Association.
Among activities planned for Saturday are rock climbing, pony rides, the Parrish Fire Departments challenge course, the Parrish Y Branch obstacle course, and rides on the museum's train.
An area is set aside to highlight Parrish pioneering, including quilting, a spinning wheel, old-time music, cracker cattle, and a bullwhip exhibit and whip-cracking contest.
Proceeds from the event go to the Parrish Foundations Grant Fund, which in four years has awarded grants totaling more than $110,000 to nonprofits serving the Parrish community.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.