ELLIS — Ellis High School alumni and members of the community lined Washington St. for a parade Saturday morning to celebrate 115 years of consecutive reunion gatherings.
The parade featured floats of reunion classes, outstanding alumnus and hall of fame teachers, as well as vintage vehicles.
Cory and Lynette Betz, Hays, and their children Evan and Eva, and Cory’s sister, Jennifer Angell, also of Hays, and her children Emily and Brayden, staked out a bench in the shade to watch the parade.
The Betz family planned a weekend of camping at the Ellis Lakeside Campground.
“My brother lives here in Ellis, so we come over here to be with family,” Cory Betz said.
Angell is in a wheelchair, and the Ellis lake is a good option “because it’s not as easy for Jennifer to camp, so she can go home,” Lynette Betz said. “She can spend the day with us fishing or whatever we’re doing.”
The rain sent the Betz family home Friday evening.
“We came back for breakfast in the morning to make it as much of a camping event as possible,” Cory Betz said.
The rain also caused Friday night’s performance by the Flatland Band to be moved from the park to St. Mary’s Grade School gymnasium, James Bieker said.
It wasn’t a big reunion year for the class of ’62, but Ron and Linda Zachman, Dodge City, came for Ron’s class get-together and the banquet.
The Zachmans, along with Judy Helget, WaKeeney, also a member of the class, and her friend, Merle Geyer, came out early to watch the parade.
At the all-school reunion, “you get to see people you went to school with that weren’t in our class. That’s always fun,” Helget said.
Lyle Johnston’s family moved away from Ellis before he graduated, but he spent 10 years in Ellis schools, so he considers it his alma mater, and currently serves as alumni association historian.
“There’s over 4,000 (students) that have graduated from Ellis. There were some large classes in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s even,” Johnston said.
As historian, Johnston is in charge of school memorabilia and artifacts which are housed in the basement of the Ellis Railroad Museum. Photos, yearbooks, class rings, footballs, sports uniforms and trophies, including one for the 1939 band winning the national march and music fest in Colorado Springs, are on display.
About 600 people were expected to attend the banquet Saturday night, he said.
“Some classes get together, and they’re very nostalgic, and some rarely come back,” Johnston said.