As Ron Gay led this year’s Fourth of July parade on horseback, he shared with onlookers the significance of the riderless horse with backward-facing boots ahead of him.
The horse and boots, Gay said, symbolize the “missing man”—those who have died in combat.
It’s unusual to see parade leaders talking so easily with spectators, but Saturday’s parade in Evansville was far from typical.
Evansville, as Gay and Police Chief Patrick Reese said, is a Fourth of July town.
The Evansville Community Partnership organizes one of the largest Independence Day parades in the area each year, along with a fireworks display, kids fishing contest and other festivities.
This year, the organization chose not to host a parade or fireworks per the Rock County Public Health Department’s recommendations during the pandemic, Reese said.
Gay, a U.S. Marines veteran and self-described reader of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, believed a parade was needed. So he organized one and opened it up to anyone wanting to participate.
A few dozen people took him up on it.
The city’s public safety commission did not allocate resources and did not close any streets. The parade was allowed to go on, but it had to abide by the rules of the road, Reese said.
As the parade marched up Fifth Street, oncoming vehicles drove by the line of horses, cars, kids on bikes, dairy queens and trucks.
Steve and Sylvia Scheneeberger, whom residents might recognize as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, sat in lawn chairs in the shade of their garage and watched the parade go by.
Normally, they watch entries line up in front of their house, but this year they got the full—albeit much smaller—show right in their front yard.
Sylvia said she gives organizers credit for putting on the parade, but she understands why the traditional parade was canceled.
She and her husband have been cautious about staying safe during the pandemic, she said.
The couple usually walk up to Main Street to watch the full parade and return home with pockets full of candy. This year as they watched, a man driving a car in the parade shouted at them and tossed a little candy at the foot of their driveway.
Sylvia gave a parade dog a treat.
Spectators were fewer than normal and stayed mostly spread out along the route, which took an alternate path to avoid traffic.
Gay said the smaller parade allowed for a change of pace and gave some people who might not have joined in an opportunity to participate.
The coronavirus should be respected, he said, but he thought the risk of spectators spreading the disease was low because people were outside and could social distance.
American independence is too important to ignore, Gay said.
Still, some people pushed back against the parade on social media, he said.
Health officials have said the coronavirus spreads quickly through crowds of people who are in close proximity to one another.
Reese said he supported the Evansville Community Partnership’s decision to cancel the traditional parade.
Patrick Brian Bell
Margaret “Maggie” Bostwick
Nancy L. Burge
Richard Floyd “Rick” Carroll
Ronald J. Foley
Doris A. Hogan
Aleena R. Lopez
Betty J. McNely
Thomas Wayne Nicks
Doretta M. “Sis” Stewart
Joan E. Whitby
Grant L. Winger Sr.
Leonard J. Zimmerman
Family trips and summer vacations have undergone dramatic alterations—or have been downright canceled—because of COVID-19.
But thanks to “Notebooking Through the United States,” a virtual summer school class at Madison Elementary School, students are still exploring other states.
They recently visited the Houston Zoo and Dinosaur Valley State Park through virtual tours and watched a rodeo for the lesson on Texas.
“Notebooking” is one of about 20 courses the Janesville School District is offering via the virtual learning platform SeeSaw this summer. The district typically offers close to 100 classes in a traditional summer.
In the past, the state Department of Public Instruction allowed virtual summer school classes only for grades 7-12, but the agency expanded those opportunities to younger students because of the pandemic.
About 1,350 students are participating in Janesville’s summer school program—about half the enrollment of a typical summer school.
Summer school Director Paul Stengel said the district wanted to have some version of summer school for kids after an unusual school year.
“We just wanted to keep our kids connected throughout the summer and have them stay engaged in their learning,” he said.
The virtual focus became easier because students were allowed to keep their electronic devices over the summer, Stengel said.
Each school conducts summer school differently.
Kennedy Elementary offers individual courses. Madison is in the midst of a travel study. Van Buren has a theme of mind, body and soul. Teachers post lessons each morning, and students complete the work on their own time.
Four courses are available to high-schoolers along with credit recovery, which students typically complete online under a teacher’s supervision.
Adrian Farris teaches a virtual nature course for elementary students. Kids go on hikes each day near their homes and complete lessons ranging from leaf symmetry to comparing man-made and nature-made items. After the hike, they share their observations online.
“It gives them a chance to get outside,” said Farris, who thinks the class is going well.
“We weren’t sure going in if we would even have summer school, but it was nice to see enough kids show interest to support the program,” he said. “I’m glad that there’s a format for kids to do something educational and have a focus for at least a little bit of their day.”
High school athletes have a chance to stay focused, too.
Coaches are teaching a virtual speed, strength and athletics course this summer. Students are given a workout each day with instructional videos, and those without access to equipment are given body-weight workouts.
Mike Fuhrmann, who teaches part of the course, said the virtual aspect made some workouts more challenging. On the plus side, it has allowed teachers to discuss other qualities that are prized in athletes: leadership, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good mental health.
“Our big goal through all of this is to try and take advantage of the opportunity this year to give kids a more well-rounded look at being an athlete,” he said.
Fuhrmann said he has been able to get to know students as people instead of just athletes, thanks to the expanded course dialogue.
He thinks the changes to life and summer school will be a learning experience for all students.
“It’s really different not seeing the kids, and not being able to see the gains can be a difficult portion,” Fuhrmann said. “But I’ve enjoyed being able to expand the whole idea of what makes an athlete.
“… We miss that personal, face-to-face interaction with the kids, for sure, but we’re trying to do what we can with the situation we’re in, and I think that’s an important lesson for the kids to try to make the best out of any situation they’re in, too.”