Kiwanis to celebrate youth with Kiddie Day Parade Sept. 15
by Marie Nesmith
Aug 30, 2012 | 1565 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As the Kiddie Day Parade approaches, Danica Reece is putting the finishing touches on her son’s Viking costume. Like many of her fellow Bartow Countians, the parade has become a family tradition for her and her 5-year-old son, Derris Willerson.

“The very first year, he was a year old and we were Raggedy Ann and Andy,” Reece said, adding her son will portray Hiccup from the film “How to Train Your Dragon” this year. “I always try to dress up with him. It’s just fun for us to do that. We were Raggedy Ann and Andy because we were planning on being that for Halloween and [at that time] I didn’t know about the Kiddie Day Parade. Someone had told me about it. So that’s why we went ahead and just did that and then I saw all the other people and how they ... actually built things.

“So I got really into it the next year and that’s when he was Snoopy and I was Charlie Brown and I built the little dog house. Last year, he was Hulk Hogan and I built the wrestling ring for him. It’s fun for me because it’s something we do together and he helps me build everything. It’s just something that I want him to look back on and know his mom wanted to do things with him. ... I just thank [the Kiwanis Club] for having it because it’s a pleasure to [participate] with my son. It’s really fun. I hope he’ll do that with his kids one day.”

On Sept. 15, the Kiddie Day Parade, which will not require an admission fee or pre-registration, will return to downtown Cartersville. Organized by the 22-member Kiwanis Club of Cartersville, the event will be geared toward youth in fifth grade and younger.

“The Kiwanis’ slogan is changing the lives of children one child, one community at [a] time,” said Linda Denham, chairman of the Kiddie Day Parade and president elect of Kiwanis. “Our entire focus really is for the betterment of a child’s life. We have worked with the BackPack Buddies by purchasing books to send home with the children that they can keep so that they can have a book of their own. We read to children.

“Most of our service projects are for the betterment of children, [for example] this year we gave three $1,000 college scholarships. ... The parade was started 57 years ago. It was to honor children, to give them a place that they could have their own parade and receive awards. We give first-, second- and third-place ribbons in four categories. So it was [intended] just to be a fun-filled day to honor children and to highlight the fact that they should have fun being a child.”

Registration and lineup for the parade will begin at 9 a.m. Starting at 10 a.m., the procession will travel from the intersection of Bartow and Main streets down Main Street, then it will turn left on Tennessee Street, left on Cherokee Avenue and end at the Founders Oak Park’s fountain. Leading the parade will be Houston Suggs, who retired from the Bartow County Recreation Department after serving as its director for about 35 years. During his tenure, he estimates more than 175,000 youth participated in the department’s athletic programs. In his parade questionnaire for the Kiwanis Club, he said he has enjoyed watching his children and grandchildren participate in this event and feels “very honored” to have been selected for its grand marshal.

“Every year we try to find for a grand marshal a person that has really touched the lives of children,” Denham said. “Last year, it was Ava Lipscomb who is head of the Bartow County CASA. And this year, we’re honoring Houston Suggs.

“... Think of all the sports teams and all [the] children that have [participated] with the parks and rec. [while he was the director]. He’s really influenced their lives. He’s retired and we just thought that he would be the perfect person to honor.”

For more information about the parade, call Denham at 770-386-2597. To help build an exhibit for the parade’s 60th anniversary, Denham is encouraging people to email photos of past parade entrants, along with names and dates, to her at