GILMER — It’s an annual family get-together that just keeps growing.
That was clear during the Queen’s Parade on Saturday, part of the 82nd annual East Texas Yamboree, as multiple generations stood side by side watching youths in marching bands and other parade entries.
“The Yamboree stands out because it’s like a big family reunion,” Rick Tefteller said as he watched the parade roll down Tyler Street with Gilmer High School classmate Jay Spencer. Tefteller and Spencer graduated from high school in 1970 and 1971, respectively.
Tefteller, 67, uncle of Upshur County Judge Todd Tefteller, said he began attending the Queen’s Parade when he was 4 or 5 years old but missed it when he lived out of state. He said he moved back a year ago from a 17-year residency in Gillette, Wyoming, where he worked in the coal industry.
Tefteller cut short a conversation because he wanted to watch his brother, Larry, drive by in a John Deere tractor.
Tefteller and Spencer were among thousands of people who lined the parade route during the hourlong event. They ranged in age from infants to grandparents.
Crowd estimates were not immediately available for the parade.
But parade Chairman Jeff Dodd said later Saturday that an estimated 100,000 people typically attend during the four-day run of the Yamboree, which includes carnival rides and games, other activities and food vendors.
Over 100 entries
The Queen’s Parade had more than 100 entries, similar to the number in 2018, parade volunteer Ross Wise said. That included 30 floats, 24 antique or custom cars and nine marching bands, down from the dozen Dodd said participated in 2018.
Dodd, who’s been parade chairman for 27 years and was Yamboree president about 12 years ago, said parade participants made a major effort to create floats, “using their imagination on a very limited budget.”
The float that carried Yamboree Queen Audrey Scott Nolan cost as much as $20,000 to create. She was crowned at a ceremony earlier in the week.
Colorful floats included one carrying a girl dressed like Mary Poppins accompanied with black-clad chimney sweeps and a Rosie the Riveter theme with a replica of an airplane from World War II.
“I want more floats,” Dodd said. “I want more bands. They are people pleasers. People like to see their kids.”
Parade goers apparently agreed, with many saying their children were in the parade. Some attendees have been coming for years while others said it was a first-time experience.
“I am 42 and have never missed a Yamboree yet,” said Anna Blalock, who was born in Gladewater, grew up in Gilmer and now calls Texarkana home. “We love the small-town feel, and we miss it and I plan on coming back.”
Blalock outdid Jennifer Helms, a 1985 graduate from Gilmer High School who said she has been attending the parade for 37 years.
“We’ve got all kinds of people in the parade,” said Helms, who now lives in Diana. She mentioned the participation of granddaughters Briley Blair, a third-grader at Robert F. Hunt Elementary School in New Diana ISD; and Reagan Reece, a member of the marching band at New Diana High School.
Helms, who has four children and eight grandchildren, said she participated in the parade from 1981 to 1984.
Children were a draw for Shawn Goudarzi, a 1996 graduate of Gilmer High School who left town 17 years ago and now lives in Aubrey. He stood outside the Titus Street law office of his brother, personal injury attorney Brent Goudarzi.
Goudarzi said his daughters, Bailey, 7, and Alexis, 15, were in the parade. He shouted, “Hey, Bailey!” when she passed by.
Michael and Kaitlyn Colvin of Longview said they have been to the Yamboree before, but Saturday was apparently the first time they watched the parade. Michael, a teacher and coach at Spring Hill Junior High School, recalled that he could not fit in a carnival ride because he is 6 feet 4 inches tall.
Kaitlyn Colvin, who held her 2-year-old daughter, Kaydence, said she liked to watch the marching bands.
Referrng to Kaydence, she said, “When the band walks by, she dances.”
The long walk of the parade route apparently did not appeal to Jacob Acker, a member of the Junior ROTC program at Gilmer High School. He said he rode in a truck bed as an escort for a Jamboree duchess.
Jacob, a junior, watched the parade after the truck ended its route on Trinity Street.
Trinity Street was the observation point for first-time attendees Angela Hayes and her “soul” sister Dee Fister, both of Tyler. Fister said her daughter-in-law has been attending the parade for 37 years.
Hayes said after the parade that she enjoyed watching sports cars but missed candy being thrown into the street by parade participants.
She said she will watch the fiddle contest “and eat some barbecue.”