All Roads lead to Raymond

Community CorrespondentApril 22, 2014 

In most Western towns, high noon, takes on a meaning all its own, representing a formal confrontation between gun fighters — but for the foothill town of Raymond, high noon is the time when the annual Raymond Day Parade rolls through town the third Saturday of April.

Last Saturday the parade, hosted by the Raymond Museum, was held for the 28th year. The event brings together a community rich in western pride. The red, white, and blue of Old Glory waved high and proud in the afternoon sun throughout the parade route.

This year's parade theme, "All roads lead to Raymond," led more than a thousand bystanders from surrounding communities such as Oakhurst, Coarsegold, Madera and Chowchilla — just to name a few — to support the yearly event.

Brad Winter, who is a resident of Raymond and volunteers his services as announcer for the parade each year, said, "This is a very tight community and this event brings everyone together."

Jenni Nichelmann, who is a longtime resident of Raymond, participated in the parade as Miss Inspirational 2014. Jenni is a perfect example of someone who loves and believes in her community.

"It doesn't get any better than this," referring to being surrounded by her family and support group.

According to Lynn Northrop, who is the Director of the Raymond Museum, "This year is extra special because of the Veterans. We are here to honor them and have created a Wall of Honor for their dedication and service. People are responding to our efforts and we have received a lot of compliments about the Wall of Honor."

What is unique about this event is how important the past is to the future. Throughout this whole parade, one would think they were trapped in a time warp of yesteryear. Entries in the parade ranged from equestrian teams, covered wagons, mules, cars from the 1920s, to clowns and, being an election year attended by many, local politicians who were on the campaign trail or incumbents running for office. Everything that represented the past was definitely present at the Raymond Parade.

There are families such as the Knowles, who entered the parade in a very impressive flame-throwing covered wagon (something you might experience at Burning Man) with a ribbon on the back reading "Knowles or Bust," winning best Adult Float.

The Knowles family represents three generations and years rich in history going as far back as the beginning of the Raymond Quarry. Lillian "Sis" Knowles is 89 years old and grew up in Raymond/Knowles. She recently wrote a chronicle of her childhood, which is on display at the local museum. The wagon the family rode in was built and driven by her grandson-in-law, Scott.

The winner of the Youth Award was the equestrian group, which included the current Coarsegold Rodeo queen Brionna VonAh, Princess Jessie Miles and little princess Briley Delham, along with this year's royalty contestants.

For other families such as the Ritchie family of Coarsegold, being a part of the Raymond Parade brings a sense of community — and a pure, simple, organic way of life.

"We come to this parade every year," Mrs. Ritchie, mother of three, said. "This is a great way for us to teach our children about how to demonstrate respect for the land and the community we live in, while having a good time." But the fun didn't stop there. This year's Grand Marshall, Eileen Dunn, who is a long-time resident of Raymond and grandmother, rode in a stage coach wagon, and was followed by her posse of 12 grandchildren and 13 great­grand children, who entertained the crowds by dancing and clapping to the song, "Come on Eileen," in front of the judges in honor of Eileen.

Each year the Raymond parade may change and add new surprises to the event, but the one thing that remains unchanged about this town is its pride and roots of western heritage.

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