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Cruisin' along the parade route

Cruise Night-themed entry awarded in Kiddie Parade

Grundy County Corn Festival Queen Natalie Cash of Gardner South-Wilmington High School and her court awarded the Downey and Rankin families the first-place trophy for best use of theme in the Kiddie Parade at Corn Festival Saturday afternoon.

The Downeys and Rankins, both of Morris, created a Cruise Night-themed float. Ella Walker, Tyler Downey and Hope Downey were proud car owners on the float as grandpa Jim Downey drove the tractor pulling the show.

Corn Fest was given a volunteer theme this year — " Volunteers – the Heart of our Community" — and it was decided the Cruise Night float matched that theme best.

"This is something that's fun for all ages," said Sondra Rankin, Ella's mom, about choosing to feature the car show on the float. "It's a big part of Morris and it's grown so much over the years."

Tyler and Hope's mom, Tanya, said each child was going to get their own aspect of volunteerism in Morris to represent in the parade, but the families decided to work together on one idea.

"The kids enjoy it," Tyler and Hope's dad, Josh, said about participating in the parade. He explained this was their third Kiddie Parade participation. Last year, the float was created to look like a backyard, complete with a swing set and a tractor to ride.

No ideas are floating around for next year yet, Josh said.

Marching in front of and behind the Downeys and Rankins were Transformers, a fisherman and a mermaid, firemen, and several other characters. But this year was a shorter parade than in the past.

"This year there are only eight (entries)," said Deanna Cook, co-chairman for the Corn Fest Kiddie Parade. "Years and years ago, there seemed to be more."

Cook also noted there were supposed to be 10 entries, but two did not show on parade day.

Cook and her sister, Della Rankin, have been running the parade for an estimated five years. Before they took over, their mom, Sara Vilt, was chairman. Cook said Vilt ran it for over 40 years before she moved to Texas.

The Corn Fest royalty was given the opportunity to judge the entries this year on three categories: king and queen, most original, and best use of theme. After the walk from Chapin Park to Grundy Bank, the girls handed out the medals and trophies.

The Downey and Rankin families were to be marching again in the parade Sunday afternoon because of their first-place award.

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