As the former performing arts director for Philomath High School, Dan Johnson knows how to handle himself in front of people. But this Saturday, the longtime educator will experience a new twist on making a public appearance as the grand marshal of the annual Frolic & Rodeo parade.
“I’ve marched in them, but I’ve never been the featured one,” he said.
But he stopped himself right there as a memory from the past popped into his head.
“Actually, I was in a parade, golly, I don’t know how many years ago now. I was in a chicken costume advertising something for somebody. It’s definitely a step up from that.”
The grand parade is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and will travel west down Applegate Street from Philomath High School to 11th Street.
Johnson will be getting in some practice with his wave this week leading up to the event. However, you’ll see waves only from his left hand.
“I’ll be a one-armed bandit waving at the crowd,” he said, explaining last week that he was about to have shoulder surgery.
“He’s actually been on our radar for a couple of years,” said Mary Johnson, parade chair and the executive board’s secretary. “What we’re looking for is somebody we’d really like to have a community celebrate and try to recognize things they have done. We aim for the current year, but if other things stand out, we’re looking in the past several years.”
Chris Workman, Frolic & Rodeo president, echoed those statements.
“We wanted to honor him for what he’s done in the past but also celebrate his commitment moving forward,” Workman said. “He was really touched and honored that he was selected — his jaw kinda dropped to the floor.”
Dan Johnson has worked at the local high school since the 2004-05 academic year and has helped students reach heights on a statewide level as the performing arts director. PHS captured state titles the past two years — in choir in 2017 and in band just this spring. He remains at the high school in a new role as the success coordinator, a position created to help students earn their diploma and open up paths to the future.
As of the middle of last week, Mary Johnson was a bit concerned about the number of parade entries. Although those numbers could’ve gone up in recent days, there has been a downward trend over the years.
“The attendance entries are looking a little thin this year. I hope Philomath will step up. A lot of people don’t start thinking about the Frolic parade until after the Fourth of July so I’m hoping Thursday will be busy,” she said during a July 2 interview.
Parade entries are accepted on the morning of the parade — horse entries are an exception to that rule. For those who do enter the day of the event, they should expect to be put at the end of the line. Mary Johnson does line out the parade order ahead of time with various factors to take into account — such as not putting horses directly in front of loud music.
The grand parade includes a kids’ parade and Mary Johnson encourages kids to participate in costume. This year’s theme is “Big Time in a Small Town.” Judging categories include best use of theme, wheels (bikes, trikes, wagons, etc.), kids with pets, small groups (fewer than 10), large groups (10 or more), junior costume (age 5 and younger) and senior costume (age 6 and older).
Mary Johnson appears to be in her final year as the grand parade’s chair. She started out assisting the previous chairperson, Frankie Anderton, and in all has been involved for around 20 years. She said Anderton’s daughter, Drew Denue, who has been in the parade since she was 18 months old, will be taking over.
Dan Johnson appreciates how the community has supported the performing arts over the years.
“Obviously, the performing arts has definitely been ingrained in the community and they want to honor that,” he said. “It’s a sports town, but it’s also a very diverse town, and I really am honored that they would choose me to be the grand marshal in a parade as a way to just recognize what happens at the high school. It’s awesome in that respect.”