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Diversity celebrated at parade

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Families began lining downtown Columbus streets around 10 a.m. Saturday for the 28th annual Ethnic Expo parade.

Parents all along the parade route came prepared. One mother brought a half-gallon jug of chocolate milk that she poured into cups as her kids chattered on about all the candy they were going to get. Toddlers pointed excitedly as Columbus police officers chirped their cars’ sirens and flashed their lights while blocking streets along the parade route.

Columbus residents Harold and Linda Cox and their three grandchildren had chairs set up on the corner of Sixth and Washington streets. Harold Cox said he brings McKayla, 6, Brianna, 8, and K.C., 12, every year to see the parade.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Linda Cox said. “This is the first time I get to see it, ‘cause I’m always working.”

On up the parade route, Ann Redman and Gerta Antle sat with Redman’s grandchildren Brady, 7, and Rachel, 9, who were visiting from Carmel. Brady said he was excited to see his grandfather, John, driving one of the Shriner’s miniature vans in the parade. Of course, Brady was also looking forward to the candy.

Tony Stevens was out with Jonas, his 6-year-old giant schnauzer when he stumbled upon parade route. Seated on the ground next to Stevens, Jonas was enjoying the attention from passers-by who stopped to pet him.

“I was just out walking Jonas and I saw these people lining the street,” Stevens said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, wow! They’re throwing a parade!’”

On the corner of Eighth and Washington streets, former Mayor Bob Stewart and Wanda Hunter were chatting while they waited for the start of the parade. Stewart, whose wife Barbara started the expo in 1984, said he was looking forward to the float made by host country, Brazil.

“We haven’t always been this way,” Stewart said, motioning with a sweep of his hand at all the families lining the streets. “It’s only been in the past 30 years that Columbus has become this diverse.”

Beside Stewart, Hunter smiled as she watched the crowds gathering along the parade route down Eighth street.

“No matter how old you get, you always love a parade,” Hunter said. “Look how wonderful it is to see all these families.”

The float for the host country, Brazil, was third in line and accompanied by the Chicago Samba dancers. A sea of vibrant colors, the silver and blue metallic skirt of the float stood in contrast to the bright yellow and green shirts of those riding and walking alongside.

When the float reached the judges’ stand, multicolored balloons were released as the Brazilian national anthem played.

“I thought Brazil did an awesome job,” Ethnic Expo Coordinator Ali Crimmins said. “I thought the parade was fantastic. It’s always a good draw for the public, and then they make their way down to the festival for lunch, which is always one of our busiest times.”

Maddix estimated 4,000 people attended Saturday’s parade.

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