Mini parade planned to replace canceled Maple Leaf Parade

Business owner plans mini parade to keep tradition alive.

CARTHAGE, Mo. – Fall in the Maple Leaf City means maple leaves changing colors and falling, creating picturesque scenes liked with fall. And if you’re in Carthage, every October means the Maple Leaf Festival.

This year is the 54th annual, but there have been a lot of changes.

“Things are going well,” says Carthage Chamber of Commerce President Mark Ellif. “Unfortunately, we lost some of the venues that we could use, which is completely understandable. So, we had to make some modifications. We tried to do as many things outside as we could.”

The biggest day of the festival always lands on the 3rd Saturday of the month, with a car show, food vendors and craft booths on the square, and “the largest parade in southwest Missouri.” But this year, the main event isn’t happening, thanks to the pandemic.

“It was not an easy decision to make. By the time when we would normally have half of our entries, we had three entries. All of the bands had decided that they were not participating,” says Ellif. “We want to make sure that the parade that we put on is good because people expect a very good parade. And when you just don’t have any entries, unfortunately, we had to make the decision that we would not have it this year.”

A big decision, since the parade has only been canceled a few times over the last fifty or so years.

“We’ve moved from Arkansas, and we really enjoy… this is one of the most festive events in the area. So we’re gonna miss that this year,” says Darrel Brown, a Joplin resident who comes to the festival every year.

“We were pretty bummed because you know, we look forward to that time of year,” says Michael Juris, Carthage VFW Post 2590 Commander.

“We just couldn’t bear the thought of not having something,” says Cherry Babcock, the owner of Cherry’s Art Emporium on the Square.

So Cherry Babcock decided to organize a parade instead, slated for Saturday morning.

“We have around 40 entries to date. We have the Shriners, we’ve got the VFW, and of course, we’ve asked Fire Chief Roger Williams and Police Chief Greg Dagnan to be our co grand marshals, because they’re our hometown heroes,” says Babcock.

The Carthage VFW is going to be a part of it, but they’re also getting other veteran’s organizations involved to make sure it’s as good as it can be.

“We’ve got a half-track, an older half-track from like World War II that we’ve reconditioned. And then we’ll have the Combat Vets Association. We’re gonna ride some motorcycles in there. I believe the American Legion will be involved. And I’m not one hundred percent sure since it was all put together pretty quickly, but I think the DAV’s gonna be in there too. So it’ll be a nice representation,” says Juris.

The parade will start at 9:30 on Saturday, October 17th. It will start at 11th and Grand Avenue, and then follow Grand Avenue a half a mile south to East Centennial Avenue.

So it will be a lot shorter than the two-hour spectacle that normally happens, but residents still appreciate that the tradition can go on.

“We’re really glad that Cherry got together and put this together for us. So, yeah we’re pretty excited,” says Juris.

“I’m excited about it and a lot of folks have called me and come by to tell me that they’re really glad that we took this on. They’re glad that we decided to do something,” says Babcock.

You can learn more about the mini-parade here:

There are several other events happening for the festival on Saturday. You can find a list on the Chamber of Commerce website, here: