At the Great Bend Panthers homecoming parade Friday, observers saw a return to a tradition that has taken a hiatus since 2006. While concern over predicted rain evaporated, floats representing several Fall sports teams went before the homecoming court of attendants who rolled slowly by, waving from the back seats of convertibles provided by a number of Great Bend community members.
In 2007, a new track was installed at the high school, eliminating the possibility of driving cars on the track. That’s when the decision was made to use decorated golf carts for the royalty entrance. With the effort going into the decorations, the carts were used in the parade as well, said GBHS Athletic Director David Meter.
But concerns arose over the safety of students driving back to the high school in the golf carts, said Jeff Mauler, president of the GBHS Booster Club.
“We wanted to make the candidates more visible to the audience. It is also safer for the students as well,” he said. “We also know there are some very nice cars in and around Great Bend. So we thought some owners might enjoy showing them off and class up the parade some.”
Mauler guessed right. Booster club members began making calls to alumni and other boosters seeking the use of some of their prized vehicles, all in the name of school spirit. Several owners came through, and the homecoming court was transported in royal style.
Later, at the game, Meter adjusted the format at the homecoming ceremony. Instead of golf carts, candidates walked across the field in their finery as the announcer spoke of their accomplishments and dreams for the future. After the presentation, the crowd applauded the 2015 Homecoming Queen and King, Makayla Johnson, who earlier rode in the 2014 Chrysler 200 of Jerry and Linda Marmie, with attendant Jeffrey Muiruri, and Zack Dougherty, who earlier rode in the 2002 Thuderbird of Esther Stoss, with attendant Alyssa Jean.
Other vehicles provided included a 1969 Baracuda of Gerald Mauler, John Krug’s 1967 Ford Galaxie, Chuck Richardson’s 1929 Ford street rod, Aleta Ehrlich’s 2003 Thunderbird, a 1965 Ford Mustang provided by Farmers Bank & Trust, Bob Anderson’s 2015 Camaro, Tatum Dunekack’s 2009 Chrysler Sebring, Kathy Straub’s 2012 Chrysler Sebring and Trisha Dove’s 2012 Camaro, according to Mauler and Robert Rugan, a booster club member. Two others offered their vehicles as back-up, Gerrie Esfeld with his Camaro and Frank McKinney with his 1989 Mercedes
“We’d really like to thank the folks who came through for our kids,” Mauler said. “We hope this tradition once again becomes a lasting one.”