Parade History

By Lawrence Cosentino

Parade History

(Above) Lansing Centennial Parade, Saturday, May 23, 1959: Two pretty girls for every policeman! The official statistics for Lansing’s Centennial Parade paint a jolly picture: 345 musicians, 45 floats, 345 horses, two oxen, 400 “pretty girls,” 200 cops and a group of facial-hair enthusiasts who called themselves “The Bushy Belt Liners” (pictured above right). The 100-year bash was probably the city’s biggest parade to date, with 7,000 participants snaking 15 miles and taking five hours to pass in review. The event drew 175,000 spectators.

(Above) Theodore Roosevelt Visit, May 1907: Seven years after Dewey Day, big shots were still crowing about U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War. Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States and the other hero of the “splendid little war” (as Secretary of State John Hay called it), visited Lansing to mark the 50th birthday of Michigan Agricultural College. Invoking the recent rout of the Spanish, Roosevelt called for a stronger National Guard in a speech from the balcony of the Capitol in Lansing. Then he tooled over to the campus in East Lansing, chaufferred by Ransom E. Olds himself and soaking up lots of bully Roosevelt Day love along the way. Marching bands and dignitaries accompanied the president’s motorcade to East Lansing, and residents were asked to decorate their businesses and homes “to the best of their ability.”

The fuss was hardly needed; if any one man could constitute a parade by himself, T.R. was it.

Parade of Champions, March 28, 1979: “Michigan State was doing well in the basketball tournament. One day, [Sportscaster] Tim Stoudt and I were on a street corner in downtown Lansing talking. ‘What could we do if they went to the Final Four?’” Duane Vernon recalls. The optimistic men approached coach Jud Heathcote, and he agreed to a parade if the team made the Final Four, so they got to work planning the march. Two days after the Spartans won it all against Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores, the team was joined by students, family, friends and fans in a celebratory strut from East Lansing to the Capitol, where the State Legislature recognized the team.