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By B. Scott Mohr
If it were not for about 125 diligent volunteers, there would be no ABC Labor Day Miracle Mile Parade on Saturday.
“All of our volunteers play a critical role in the parade,” said Diane Gritt, who is in charge of all the helpers and assures that they are in the right places.
She has served as a volunteer since the parade enjoyed its rebirth in 2007. First staged in May 1957, the event was discontinued after one year because of a lack of interest and the inability to compete with the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade.
Gritt, who solicits volunteers on a year-round basis, can always count on friends, family and co-workers. “They are excellent helpers,” she said. “Some of the volunteers are responsible for the line-up of the parade divisions. That is no easy task because some of the units can have up to 30 people or 30 cars.”
Members of the University of Indianapolis’ Circle K – a junior division of the Kiwanis Club of Perry Township – will also lend a helping hand. “They will be assigned to key areas and wherever they are needed,” said Gritt, adding that the college students are also great volunteers.
Gritt’s work on Saturday will begin shortly after dawn to ensure that the parade’s 11 a.m. start goes off without a hitch.
“As a lifelong Southsider, this area and the parade are near and dear to my heart. I love seeing all the smiling faces on everyone at the parade. Everyone loves a parade,” smiled Gritt, senior vice president and branch manager of PNC Bank at Southern Plaza.
Another enthusiastic volunteer is Rich Van Paris, who heads up hospitality and the VIP tent.
A certified public accountant who offers tax advice and financial planning strategies, Van Paris, has also assisted with the parade since 2007.
“I do my best to ensure that everyone in the VIP is fed well and enjoys the parade in a festival-like atmosphere,” he said. “City Barbecue is providing the food, and Zink Distributing is providing the soft drinks.”
In preparation for the parade, Van Paris anticipates a busy Friday night setting up tables and chairs after the tents are pitched. “It will take at least three or four hours to set up.”
Van Paris said he enjoys the parade because he knows it’s responsible for some of the rejuvenation that the area has enjoyed. He cited a higher class of new businesses, improved landscaping and a better appearance overall. “The corridor is coming back.”
And he was quick to note that the parade isn’t just about promoting the route that it follows – Southern Avenue to Murry Street. “It’s about promoting the corridor from here all the way to Greenwood,” said Van Paris.
“There is camaraderie down here with all the volunteers, participants and police motorcycle drill team. It’s nice to be a part of the event. The volunteers ensure that the parade is well orchestrated.”
Dave Nelson, another nine-year volunteer and the owner of Indy Web, is in charge of registering participants, vehicles and floats. His day will get real busy when the first four divisions begin to check in at 9 a.m., with Divisions 5 and 6 registering by 10 a.m.
He will also greet everyone at the parade’s endpoint, where he will direct people to the appropriate places, whether it’s back to their cars, bus or the VIP tent.
Nelson, whose company develops and hosts websites, sells and services computers and provides information technology services to small businesses, said he enjoys being involved with the parade because it’s a good way to give back to the community.
He said three or four volunteers will be needed at the check-in site and at the end of the parade.