When the ABC Labor Day Miracle Mile Parade steps off at 11 a.m. Saturday, it will be the culmination of four months of work for chairman Mark Bowell.
“I’ve been working on it since the latter part of April,” said Bowell via the telephone from the beautiful hills of Tennessee. “It has been fun and challenging at the same time.”
The enjoyable part has been working with the volunteers and the all the Indianapolis departments that play a role in the event. The challenging part has been securing sponsorships.
“The economy is improving, but money is still tight,” he said. “However, we have exceeded our budget in raising money. When the day is done we will have enough money to pay the bills and contribute to the Gateway Community Alliance,” an economic development group.
Bowell praised the work of his volunteers, saying they make it happen, and Bryan Apolskis, who’s mastering the logistics of the parade. Apolskis is employed by Sequence Sports and has helped coordinate the 500 Festival and St. Patrick’s Day parades.
Apolskis has had his hands in everything from marketing and insurance to working with city agencies, coordinating operations, selling sponsorships and ensuring emergency plans.
“This last week has been a been push to communicate with everyone involved in the parade,” he said. “We are tending to last-minute requests and making sure that sponsors have their tickets to the VIP tent,” where they will be treated to a meal catered by City Barbeque.
Changes have been made that should enhance the experience of spectators. The start area will be more lively as the participants will be out in the open and not tucked away. Also, parking will be more accessible around the viewing areas, and there will be more classic cars.
WTTS will broadcast live from 9-11 a.m., and there will be food trucks and free bottled water. Friends of Garfield will have a “star zone” set up across the street from McDonald’s, where there will be bleacher setting, complimentary candy for the first 200 children, water, parking and the VIP tent. There will also be food, water and a viewing area at Cardwell Do-it Best Home Center.
This year’s parade boasts the theme of “Saluting Small Business,” and it’s fitting since family-owned businesses line the route. Those companies are the backbone of the Southside as they offer many employment opportunities and innovative products and services. What better way to celebrate the area’s diverse business community than to honor it with a parade.
Bowell said he is especially impressed with the creativity that entrants are putting into their units this year.
P.E. MacAllister, a longtime civic leader and businessman, is the grand marshal. “We are so fortunate for that. P.E. is truly a great citizen of Indianapolis,” said Bowell, who is also playing a role in planning the Sept. 19 Fountain Fest, a benefit for Garfield Park’s Sunken Gardens. “His great story is about a little tractor store growing into a multibillion-dollar business (MacAllister Machinery Co. on the Northeastside).”
The alliance, which was responsible for the parade’s rebirth in 2007, not only sees the affair as a fun-filled event but as a catalyst to spur business along the corridor.
Over the past nine years more than $30 million has been invested in the area by private individuals.
The Gateway group envisions all of Madison Avenue with fresh sidewalks and tree- and flower-lined medians – some of which is the norm. Members hope to see businesses thrive, sleepy strip centers awaken and vacant buildings swell with merchants and shoppers.
The inaugural parade was held in May 1957, the brainchild of Key West Shrimp House owner Claude Kendall, whose aspiration was to bring families to the Southside to enjoy fine dining and first-class entertainment at the Garfield Park Amphitheatre. Behind his leadership and a partnership with the Madison Avenue Businessmen’s Association, the parade was launched; however, it could not compete with the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade and was a one-and-done deal.
Today, some 58 years later, the alliance has joined forces with private and public sectors to resurrect the event into a gala that Kendall would be proud of.