OTTUMWA — The weather was gloomy, but Ottumwans’ spirits were not as they gathered for the annual Oktoberfest. Smiles were all around on adults, excitement on kids as they waved around bags hoping to score sweet deals on candy.

For Ottumwans, there was no better way to kickstart fall than to attend the timeless tradition.

Amanda Argueta had been coming to the parade for seven years with her husband, Luis. They came on their wedding anniversary, a special day for both. Argueta kept coming back because she loves seeing what the parade provides for kids. “I like the carnival,” she said.

Argueta’s husband agreed. “I like the clowns,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s cool, I like it.”

As Amanda leaned closer to her husband, she said he was also referencing something else. “He’s talking about the shriners, the guys who raise money for the kids.”

Argueta said there was one thing in particular she liked about the parade. “I like watching the high school marching bands, the high school and middle school bands,” she said, “from surrounding areas usually. That’s always cool because you see kids out — that takes a lot of courage to walk in front of all those people.”

People from all walks of life, from infants to elders lined the streets, one of them was teenager Sophea Skinner. While many enjoyed the marching bands and seeing other organizations, Skinner enjoyed a different sight at her eighth parade.

“I love watching all the animal shelter dogs walk through,” Skinner said. Although Skinner didn’t see the dogs this year, Skinner was glad she, her family and her big, white, fluffy dog Duke came.

“We come because of the tradition,” she said. “So many people couldn’t stop petting Duke.”

Chelsea Warrick was born and raised in Ottumwa, so coming was something she didn’t have to think twice about. She took a 10 year hiatus from coming because she moved but wanted to come because of her love for the parade and to watch the Moravia marching band.

“My nephew is in the marching band,” she said. Warrick was eager to watch him in the parade because it also brought Warrick back in time to when she walked as a flag team member for Ottumwa’s marching band.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Warrick said. “People judged you on how you walked a certain way and I even got whacked on the wrist one time.”

Although it was nerve-wracking for Warrick to walk in the parade years ago, Warrick still had some good memories of then and Saturday, even with some changes to the parade.

Warrick’s kids loved the sights, but they mostly liked the candy portion. While most kids were hoping for lollipops, suckers and chocolates, her kids hoped for something else.

“I really wanted gum,” Violet Warrick said. Her little brother, Brentley agreed. “I really wanted gum, too,” he said. Before Brentley got too discouraged, with just his luck he was able to score some gum. “Look Mommy!,” he said tugging at his mother’s sweatshirt. “I got the gum! I got the gum!”

Julie Johnson didn’t bring her kids, but like Warrick, she was also born and raised in Ottumwa and came to watch her nephew perform with his marching band. She has been coming to the parade for 17 years, coming back for different reasons.

“I came to watch him perform of course,” Johnson said. “The parade itself is pretty cool. It’s a big parade and I love seeing all the floats and businesses come by. We’ve brought our kids for a long time and now some of my kids were old enough to even be in the parade. Seeing Carson King was also amazing knowing what he’s done for Iowa.”

For Johnson’s family, being in the parade stems from tradition, as Johnson was in the parade as a child. “I used to be in the parade, on church street,” she said. “I remember it pretty well. We would dress in costumes and ride our bikes as well. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Smiles didn’t leave the crowds and kids were pleased enough with their candy, hurrying to their cars before the heavy downpour, knowing they’ll be back next year.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

— Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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