Turnout for Gov. Steve Beshear’s inaugural parade was light compared to years past, but many crowded Capital Avenue to glimpse the governor and watch the more than 50 high school marching bands.
“We used to be in the band together back in high school, and we really like parades,” said Tim Schultz, a state employee who sat in a camping chair along Broadway with his wife, Nanette Schultz.
“We heard there were going to be 50 plus marching bands here, so we’re excited,” Schultz said before the parade started.
Marching bands were the attraction of the day, to say the least. Bands from throughout the state converged on Frankfort to march in Tuesday’s parade.
Loretta Millkan and Tammy Hunter drove five hours and 300 miles from Smithland, a town in western Livingston County.
They were the only ones sitting in bleachers on the Old Capitol lawn and said grandchildren in the band brought them to Frankfort.
Both thought the parade would be better attended. About 100 watched from downtown Frankfort as the parade moved along Broadway and turned on Ann Street en route to the Capitol.
“There’s nobody here,” Millkan said. “… I figured it’d be packed.”
They said weather – 48 degrees and overcast – likely kept some indoors.
Others had different predictions, such as a lack of publicity or interest.
City Commissioner Michael Turner said the parade was good for Frankfort, especially with the out-of-towners buying food, lodging, and other necessities.
“I think the inaugural ceremonies in general bring in a lot of people throughout the state to not only see what Frankfort has to offer, but also spend quite a bit of money and tourist dollars,” Turner said while standing along Capital Avenue.
He attributed the light turnout to the early 10 a.m. start time and said the crowd might’ve grown as the parade went on.
He also said an overall lack of interest in the latest governor’s race could’ve played a role.
“Plus it’s the governor’s second term,” Turner said. “A lot of times you see more excitement for the first term because it’s a fresh beginning.
“Usually when he’s reelected it’s not going to be as big, but I’m pretty pleased with what I see here.”
Attorney Kyle Thompson watched from his office steps at the corner of High and West Main streets. He said the parade’s many street closures probably frustrated out-of-towners trying to find a spot to watch the parade.
He said he had to park by the State Office Building off Holmes Street to get to his office.
“They turn you around at the (Frankfort) Cemetery, they turn you around on Wilkinson, you can’t come down the East-West Connector,” Thompson said.
“Your only option is to go Holmes Street and park at the State Office Building, but if you’re not from here, you don’t know that. And it’s hard to find Holmes Street if you’re not from around here.”
The parade featured bands ranging from about 20 members to more than 200, the Kentucky National Guard’s 202nd Army band, 2012 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Kimberly Shearer of Boone County as grand marshal and cabinet secretaries riding to the Capitol loop on the trolley.
It also featured the group Sit-in for the Mountains, which is holding weekly sit-in protests against the controversial mining practice mountaintop removal outside Beshear’s office until I Love Mountains Day in February. Its members stood with a prominent sign just before the loop.
Caroline Taylor-Webb said Beshear waved and acknowledged the group as he rode past in his horse-drawn carriage.
“He exchanged pleasantries with Don (Pratt, Beshear’s college classmate) about foster parenting, and of course he knows why we’re here,” she said.