By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
It was the end of another big Memorial Day weekend. Valerie Freels had recently joined the Reba Development Committee, and the committee was just given charge of the town parade. She promised Reba and her team that they would have a Rose Parade-caliber event the next year.
Valerie set about fulfilling her promise with the help of her teammates, Joy Bryant and Pat Watson. Valerie contacted the local TV station and they got behind the project.
But having a parade the caliber of the famed Rose Parade wouldn’t be easy, especially in a small community.
First, they needed floats—lots of them. To incentivize people to enter, the committee offered free lawn chair tickets to the Reba concert that took place the evening following the parade.
Next, Valerie needed a parade float fit for a star. She turned to the high school FFA kids, who built Reba’s float—a gigantic horseshoe covered with red, white, and blue, and a swing in the middle for Reba.
Lastly, Valerie needed promotion to draw in thousands of people to line the streets with cheers and flags. The TV station promoted the parade, amping excitement in advance.
Still, there was no way to know the turnout numbers until the morning of the parade.
“I probably didn’t have enough sense to be nervous,” Valerie said with a laugh. “Having Bruce Stidham and the TV station partnering with us gave me a sense of security.”
The morning arrived for the parade whose theme became, “Remembering every brave American.”
The parade lined up, preparing to head down Main Street—a street that looked very much like a miniature downtown Pasadena during the Rose Parade. The TV station broadcasted the parade live.
“There were people everywhere,” Valerie said. “Newspapers estimated 20,000 people in downtown Denison for the parade.”
“Valerie brought the hometown parade to the highest level with a true Norman Rockwell feeling,” said Kris McKinney, a former chairwoman of the development committee.
With Joy and Pat on the parade committee, Valerie fulfilled her promise that year, and for years to come. For one parade, the development committee sponsored a float with “Little Rebas,” girls dancing to Reba tunes on a float.
A crowd favorite of the parade each year were the Glory Riders. The equestrians bedecked in red, white, and blue never failed to be a high point.
The theme every year stayed firmly patriotic, while giving attendees a chance to see their sweetheart of country music.
“Reba was so gracious and friendly,” Valerie recalls.
Valerie and the committee were able to pull off a Rose Parade-style celebration—all while honoring veterans and supporting efforts to raise awareness for what became Reba’s Ranch House.
Through donating to the ranch house, you carry on a Rose Parade-sized legacy. Donate now in celebration of the 30 years that Reba’s Ranch House has opened its doors to care for caregivers.