story and photos by Ruby Dean
With the temperature in the upper 80s, hundreds gathered along Main Street in Van Buren on Saturday (May 24) at the Pioneer Days Parade, a traditional lead-in to the Old Fort Days Rodeo.
The parade included hundreds of individual local riders, equestrian clubs, horse-drawn wagons, floats, and more. The annual event is organized by the Crawford County Mounted Patrol.
The parade began at the historic Crawford County Courthouse with riders making their way up the Main Street waving to the crowd with some throwing out candy to the eager kids waiting for the chance to grab up the loot.
Local law enforcement, including the Van Buren Police Department and Arkansas State Police led off in the parade by sounding their lights and sirens. They were followed by members of the Crawford and Sebastian County Sheriff’s Offices, which included officers from each counties’ mounted patrol divisions. Bill Grill served as the Grand Marshal for this year’s parade.
The Old Fort Days Dandies precision riding team carried the colors in the parade. The Dandies precision riding team is made up of high school age young ladies from the area. Team members demonstrate their superior riding skills each year during the rodeo for the crowd. The parade also included the Miss Rodeo Old Fort Days Royalty.
Several local riding clubs rode in the parade marching their horses and waving their club flags in support of the event. More than a dozen local pageant winners, such as Miss Teen Crawford County and Miss Van Buren High also took part in the event.
Old Fort committee members and sponsors were also honored, with flags for each event sponsor being carried by participants on horseback.
The annual parade has been held each year since the late 1960's. It is always held on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in Van Buren. This year's parade marks the beginning of the 81st annual Old Fort Days Rodeo. The rodeo will get underway on Monday (May 26) with a parade at 10 am. in downtown Fort Smith with the official Grand Entry Ceremony at Kay Rodgers Park. The final rodeo appearance will be Saturday, May 31.