NICODEMUS — Everyone received cheers at the Nicodemus Emancipation/Homecoming parade Saturday, but one entry garnered the most applause and the top prize — the Nicodemus Buffalo Soldiers Association.
Four members of the mounted re-enactment group brought up the end of the parade, riding a short drill in the block in front of Nicodemus Township Hall, then dismounting so the crowd could come closer to ask questions and even sit in the saddle.
Not that the crowd needed encouragement to break ranks, as family and friends of those in the parade often walked right into the street to take pictures of and with those in the parade representing the families that settled the town — the only remaining town west of the Mississippi River established by African Americans. The town, which has a population of 14, was designated a National Historic Site in 1996.
Grand marshal of the parade was LeeAnna McMurray, 94, a Nicodemus native who lives in Pasadena, Calif. The parade was led by a color guard of ROTC students from the Independence, Mo., school district and also included the Nicodemus American Legion.
The event, in its 139th year, is about celebrating the community’s family ties that are intertwined with its history and now reach far across the country. While most of the people who attend are descendants of the original settlers, this year’s celebration attracted at least a few black families.
Bobbie Clay, Bel Aire, and Dorothy Richardson, Kansas City, each got up early Saturday to make the trip. Neither has a family connection to Nicodemus.
Clay said she learned about the community in a black history class when she was younger, but this was her first visit. A friend in Wichita who is a descendant encouraged her to visit.
“We didn’t know this was going to be their homecoming. We were just going to come and tour,” Clay said while waiting for the start of historical performances of some of the town’s figures.
Helen Reed, Wichita, came for the day with several family members. She, too, had heard about Nicodemus when she was younger, but this also was her first visit.
“I think it’s a good thing they do. It keeps everybody connected. It means a lot when you go back years before and see where you are today. You take pride in it,” she said.
She said she already was making plans to return.
“Next year, we’ll try to do the whole week,” she said.