Cotton Days parade resumes after COVID-19 cancellation; Marines lead color guard

ST. GEORGE — The annual Cotton Days parade made its way through Washington City on Saturday morning and ushered in a day full of festivities enjoyed by hundreds – a larger turnout of spectators than has been seen in recent years.

Saturday’s festivities included food vendors and other activities during Cotton Days parade in Washington City, Utah, May 8, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Bill Fortune, St. George News

On Saturday, families lined the streets and sidewalks with lawn chairs and strollers in time to watch the parade, featuring an eclectic assortment of vehicles, ranging from classic cars to farm tractors. Children scurried about to collect the candy thrown by those walking or driving by in the parade.

Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams said this year saw a higher turnout than what has been seen in recent years, and part of that may have been the influx of spectators that traveled to the area from northern Utah to enjoy the activities that continued throughout the day.

Spectator numbers certainly seemed higher, he said, judging from the number of large bags of candy that were purchased for the event and then thrown from several vehicles occupied by city government and law enforcement officials.

Leading the parade was members if the Utah Dixie Detachment 1270 Marine Corps League’s color guard using a synchronized work of flags, sabers and rifles as they marched along the parade route.

Bill Fortune, the detachment’s spokesperson, said the parade was postponed last year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

This year, however, the Marines stepped out in grand style with a five-man color guard selected to present the detachment’s colors and national ensign of the United States.

Family of Rick Massey, retired Marine gunnery sergeant., and Toys for Tots coordinator, during Cotton Days parade in Washington City, Utah, May 8, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Bill Fortune, St. George News

Fortune said the “Toys for Tots” float was also showcased along the parade route. This year it was dedicated to Rick Massey, retired U.S. Marine gunnery sergeant and Washington County Sheriff’s deputy. Massey was also the person who spearheaded the effort to ensure every child in Southern Utah would wake to gifts under the tree Christmas morning.

Massey, who had been the director of the program since 2006, died suddenly in January – just as he was closing out another year of the Toys for Tots toy drive that served more than 600 Washington County families and hundreds of children in 2020 alone.

Saturday’s events were hosted at several locations around Washington City and included a pancake breakfast, a festival with carnival-style games, booths and activities, a tractor pull, live entertainment and multiple merchandise and food vendors.

Also kicking off the festivities was a car show and tractor pull.

Cotton Days is an annual event that pays tribute to the early history of Washington City. Activities are held throughout an almost two-week period, with many activities focusing on historical events and markers in the city.

Ed. note: The reference to the Toys for Tots program helping 600 children in 2020 was corrected to state 600 families and hundreds of children.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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