STEWARDSON — Stewardson kicked off Independence Day festivities early Sunday as the arrival of summer heat had spectators finding shade during the Red, White and Blue parade.

Some children scrambled for candy and frozen pops, while adults appreciated the ice-cold bottled water handed out by those walking the parade route.

Vehicles included firetrucks from Stewardson, Strasburg and Windsor fire districts, as well as Stewardson’s ambulance.

A part of the parade was Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg dance and cheer team. The 2018 Little Miss and Mister Stewardson, Ava Schultz and Jackson Tabbert, took a ride down the parade route.

Parade-goers also got an early peak at Christmas in July as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, portrayed by Jim and Linda Morgan of Windsor, and Santa in a Bathtub, portrayed by Larry Black, also of Windsor, were in the parade.

Carrying the American flag, Craig Greuel with Boy Scout Troop 142 led the pack, along with other members of his troop and Cub Scout Troop 242. American Legion members Joe Vonderheide and Phil Boyer were among those carrying flags.

Royalty was a part of the parade, as well. The 2019 Shelby County Queen Adilyn McCray of Gays and Junior Miss Kylie Smith of Shelbyville had a spot in the parade lineup. Also making an appearance was Sandra (Thomas) Friese, who was the first Strasburg Homecoming Queen in 1958.

Following the conclusion of the nearly 30-minute-long parade, many gathered at the Stewardson park, where bounce houses awaited children who didn’t seem to mind the heat that was in the lower 90s at 5 p.m.

Friends from 5-Point Parish of the United Methodist Church served parade spectators with bottled water, along the parade route, and several gathered at the park after the parade ended.

“It was tough keeping up, because everybody was taking the water today,” said Steve Harder, associate pastor.

The church had 200 bottles to hand out, but did finish the parade with a handful of bottles remaining.

Others were at the park for two things – cold freshly made shake-ups from Big Al’s Shake Up stand and food from the Lions Club food stand.

Samantha Gaugh, 15, and Sierra Cameron, 16, both of Strasburg, were looking forward to the food.

Laura Duncan of Strasburg brought her three children and a niece to the park. She tried to stay cool with a shake-up and some shade, while watching her crew of children play.

“We always have to come out and get something from Big Al’s Shake Ups,” said Duncan. “Strawberry is their favorite.”

Duncan said she grew up in Stewardson and the pre-Independence Day celebration was always a summer highlight for her growing up.

Inclement weather later moved in and dampened some of the activities planned for Sunday evening. The watermelon eating contest was postponed and will be held at The Brew Bank in Stewardson at 7 p.m. July 3.

Children ages 6 to 13 may enter for $1 per person. There are 16 slots available. Anyone 14 and older may enter the adult contest for $5 per person. There are 18 slots for that contest. Contestants cannot use their hands while eating the watermelon in this event.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138