By Jessie Wagoner
McPherson County’s All Schools Day 2020 was canceled for the first time in its 107-year history. Though the parade and festivities will not go on, community members are reminiscing All Schools Days of the past and looking toward the future.
“May is going to seem incomplete this year,” Marcia Walters said.
At this time, community members are typically putting the final touches on their floats. Treva Prieb has been making floats with her preschool classes at Sonshine Preschool for years. This year would have been her last float, as she is retiring. Mike Rausch, a long-time All Schools Day committee volunteer says the parade has grown substantially over the years.
“The very first All Schools Day parade had a makeshift band and a few students,” Rausch said.
When All Schools Day began, it was designed as a way to distribute diplomas and celebrate the eighth grade graduations of students throughout McPherson County. At the time, there were hundreds of one-room schoolhouses throughout the county. Previously, the superintendent would either ride a horse or drive an old jalopy around to all the schools, delivering diplomas. By having All Schools Day, the superintendent could stay in McPherson, and everyone else traveled to town for the parade and festivities and received their diplomas.
“For probably the last 25 years, the important thing was it let people know we have a good school system to celebrate,” Rausch said. “Everyone has an opportunity to participate.”
While this is the first time All Schools Day has been canceled, there have been postponements in the past, most frequently due to weather.
“One year we had the parade late in the day because it was raining and cold at the scheduled start time,” Joyce Weber said. “When the rain broke in the afternoon, we had the parade. It was still freezing and miserable out, but the parade went on. It was one of my favorite years because in spite of the cold, everyone was still so happy and thrilled to have the parade.”
“During WWI, the military was cueing up at that point, so they had a military parade instead of a schools parade,” Rausch said. “But this is the first one canceled. Never had one canceled until the coronavirus.”
For community members, All Schools Day has come to mean connection and commitment. It provides an opportunity to connect with friends and neighbors; those who have moved away often come home for the events. It also shows their commitment to the students in McPherson County and the tradition started many years ago. Rausch says the population of McPherson on All Schools Day grows from 14,000 to 40,000 to 50,000 people.
“It’s amazing how many people have graduated, moved and traveled from McPherson, but they come back for All Schools Day,” Rausch said. “It’s a day to enjoy what they did as kids. We encourage that. Some classes want to have a part in the parade, and we encourage them to walk. It’s a fun day, a fun week.”
One of Rausch’s duties as an All Schools Day committee volunteer was scheduling the week-long carnival. This year would have marked the 55th year Toby’s Carnival has been coming to McPherson. Over the years, Rausch has gotten to know the carnival owners well. The third-generation, family-owned carnival has been a highlight for Rausch and community members.
“People love the carnival,” Rausch said. “I got acquainted with the carnival owners, and they are close friends. They are now run by the third generation of their family. They love McPherson and love to come here.”
Though the majority of All Schools Day activities are canceled due to COVID-19, one event will go on: the virtual button hunt. The 2020 buttons were already ordered before festivities were canceled. Buttons are available now at Home State Bank/Citizens State Bank, Main and North Bank, First Bank Kansas, Peoples Bank & Trust McPherson, Lindsborg, and Inman, McPherson Casey’s and Grabers Ace Hardware.
Buttons are needed to participate in the Virtual Button Hunt. Clues are posted daily on the McPherson News-Ledger Facebook Page.
“Although the celebration was canceled this year, several expenses were already incurred,” the All Schools Day planning committee said. “Please show the same level of support of All Schools Day as you all have shown local businesses. Funds are still needed to make next year’s celebration bigger and better than ever. Buttons are $2 each. Go get ’em.”
While the cancelation of All Schools Day has been difficult for the community, there are plenty of people already looking forward to next year.
“Next year will be amazing,” Colleen Epps said. “The floats will be bigger, the bands louder and the people more excited than ever.”
“All Schools Day has always been about celebrating our children and our schools,” Weber said. “Right now, we want to keep them safe, so this is the best decision. Next year it will make All Schools Day seem even better. We will have so much to celebrate.”