‘The Grand Sesquicentennial Trek’ parade to celebrate Longview’s history

A parade that will line up April 18 in downtown Longview will provide lifetime memories and bragging rights that come once every 50 years.

“The Grand Sesquicentennial Trek” hosted by One Hundred Acres of Heritage/Longview Main Street and AMBUCS is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon April 18 in Downtown Longview. The theme of “Celebrating Longview: Our Past, Present & Future: 1870-2020” is part of a number of events this spring marking Longview’s 150th birthday and points back to an event once held in Longview called the “Friendly Trek.”

The last time a parade celebrating Longview’s rich history took place was in 1970. Laura Hill, director of community services for the city of Longview, said she was downtown watching all the floats roll by.

“I remember in 1970 my parents took me when I was a child,” she said. “It was exciting and according to the newspaper, there were 35,000 people downtown. I want to create the same type of experience for children today that they had back then.”

Melida Heien, Longview Main Street’s coordinator, also oversees the city’s Christmas Parade. That event averages about 120 floats. Heien said in January there were a handful of parade entries at that time, but she expected that to grow.

Having a parade for this big of an occasion makes sense, Heien said.

“It is so important for milestones to have them,” she said. “Historically this is how people celebrate things. They would have a parade after they were home from battle, a parade after the big game. Everyone is cheering. It is officially how our society celebrates big occasions.”

Entries are due by March 20 at Longview’s city hall or online at www.cognitoforms.com/CityOfLongview1/Longview150Parade. Bands may enter free of charge, but there is a $15 fee for equestrian entries and $50 fee for other floats, vehicles and pageant winners.

Hill hopes the parade reaches about 200 entries. Parade organizers already have announced some notable entries from outside of Longview will participate, including the horse cavalry detachment from Fort Hood’s 1st Cavalry Division and the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Hill said AMBUCS named the upcoming parade based on a similar event in Longview’s history.

“The ‘Trek’ comes from the ‘Friendly Trek’ that was a Longview homecoming festival in the 1930s and early 1940s, and it had a parade,” she said, noting there are YouTube videos with old footage of a Friendly Trek parade that can be found by searching “Longview 1939.”

Seven, $250 prizes will be awarded — accompanied by trophies and bragging rights for the next 50 years. The awards are: the Mayor’s Award for Best Overall Float; Cavender’s Boot City-Grand Marshal’s Award; Most Representative of Community Spirit sponsored by Longview Chamber of Commerce; Americana Award Most Patriotic — sponsored by Friends of the Longview Public Library; Showmanship Award Best Unique Theme Development/Most Beautiful sponsored by Keep Longview Beautiful Inc; Heritage Award Best Scenes of Yesteryear sponsored by Gregg County Historical Museum; and Innovator Award/Most outstanding use of imagination, innovation and technology sponsored by the Longview Economic Development Corp.

Judging criteria include compliance to regulations, relevance to the parade theme, originality, use of lights, design and color, and overall entertainment quality. Floats will be judged as participants pass the reviewing stand in front of the Gregg County Courthouse.

The parade will begin at Green and Whaley streets in Downtown Longview. It will travel west to Horaney Street, south to Methvin Street and then proceed east to Third Street. The parade staging area will be along Whaley from Green Street east to Fourth Street. All units will re-enter the staging area at Methvin and Third streets before disbanding.

Heien said AMBUCS members are essential to staging the Christmas parade and will be working hard in this parade, too.