Articles From the November 1995 Unification News


Imagine You Are King And Queen For A Day... National Parents' Day in Rome, New York

by Terry & Elise McKnight-Rome, NY

Imagine you are king and queen for a day. Take a cruise aboard the S.S. Parents' Day float, our entry in the Rome, NY's Honor America Days Parade. Come enjoy the music and dancing at the stage on Liberty Plaza. The high point is the special Parents' Awards ceremony. Original glass sculptures are being presented to three exemplary couples. Afterwards, listen to the Syracuse Symphony perform the "1812 Overture" accompanied by the cannon fire of Ft. Stanwix National Monument. Then finish your evening under the brilliant flash of fireworks over the fort.

With this vision in mind, we two couples, Terry & Elise McKnight and David & Cathy Mahardy, began plans for National Parents' Day in Rome, NY last April.

An Oneida County Parents' Day Committee was formed, consisting of ourselves, the Mahardy's, and Duane Burleigh, youth director of the local Salvation Army. Having lived in Rome since 1987, Terry and I began sifting through our network of friends in the community and found many willing to assist.

The mayor issued a citywide proclamation in support of Parents' Day which was a great help in gaining the interest of local civic organizations, as well as for raising funds for the event.

Terry went to the Honor America Days Committee, which is responsible for two weeks of patriotic celebrations around the city, to ask their advice. After some discussion, it was decided to celebrate Parents' Day on July 29, to give it maximum exposure, directly after the Honor America Days Parade and before the Syracuse Symphony concert. Piggybacking on their event would also facilitate the advertising of this new national holiday.

David and Cathy Mahardy offered to design and build the Parents' Day float for the parade. David also took over all stage preparation, for the entertainment and ceremony.

Mr. Burleigh gave us a lot of valuable advice on the organizational level. His experience in getting the support of businesses was a key element.

At this point we found ourselves swept up in a fervor of spiritual support. Prayers seemed to be answered before being uttered. All of us were a bit overwhelmed at how quickly things fell into place. Money, material and members from around upstate New York came together.

A 15'-long farm wagon was donated by a local farmer to use as the float vehicle. Milon Townsend, of Rochester, contributed three beautiful glass figurines of his own design for the awards. Members from both in- and outside the state made generous financial donations from as far away as Alaska. David Mahardy's employer, AFSA, paid for the Parents' Day banner which was placed above the stage. An AFSA executive, who is also a Rome school board member, helped David build part of the stage.

Terry and I organized the entertainment, media coverage, promotional/educational materials and vending for the day. We hired an "Oldies" rock band, a contemporary folk trio and an Irish step-dance troupe, of which our eldest daughter is a member. A local Christian musician/singer donated his performance, as well as Patches the Clown. Parents' Day brochures and commemorative buttons were designed and distributed by Joy Pople of Baldwinnsville.

The two local ABC and NBC television affiliates gave very positive coverage, interviewing Terry and showing the float.

Vendors included Wendy's Restaurants and Big Picture Video, as well as a number of vending tables to support the event. These included face painting by Yuko Kise and Tara McKnight, and watermelon slices sold by Elke Noll and Stacy Pople. Novelty balloons were vended by Milon Townsend, with assistance by Will Denn and Adam Weresh, both from Albany.

Price Chopper Supermarkets donated 1,000 cookies as giveaways, and a 50/50 raffle was organized by Laszlo Weresh, which the assistant mayor won (legally)!

A fundraising table was put together by members of the South Rome Neighborhood Watch, which Terry heads up, to support the newly organized Rome Police Bike Patrol. Six local bakeries including Dunkin' Donuts donated 250 doughnuts, which raised $100 for the police. The bike patrol has been funded completely by local community groups.

The heart of the event was the awards ceremony. After reading the proclamation aloud, the assistant mayor honored each couple, presenting each with the beautiful glass sculpture.

The first couple, Jim and Juanita Jenkins, have worked in social services for many years, effectively dealing with the problems of family breakdown and child abuse. Juanita is director of Oneida County Community Action and Jim has recently retired from a 20-year career serving his country in the U.S. Air Force.

The second couple are Richard & Jean Vollmer. Public volunteerism is their arena, especially in the arts. They have worked extensively with the elderly in what is called the "Seniorversity" program. Dick is president of the Rome Arts and Community Center and helped build the parade float.

The third couple are Henry and Barbara Swistak. They have served on many levels in the field of education. Barb is a dedicated teacher in the Catholic school system and both work regionally overseeing the area's girl scout troops. It was truly satisfying to see all these selfless people being honored.

One friend of ours, a professional photographer, covered the entire day's photos, development and all, for free! And a last-minute financial gift by one upstate member enabled us to have Parents' Day professionally videotaped.

The four months of preparation were a labor of love, underlined with the birth of our fourth child, Ryan Francis, who was born on June 6, 1995 (anniversary of D-Day).

Paraphrasing Jesus' words, wherever two or more couples are gathered, there I will be. We are all deeply grateful to God for having trusted us to bring this wonderful holiday to Central New York. Anyone wishing for a copy of the Parents' Day videotape can write or call: Terry McKnight, 305 Depeyster St., Rome, NY 13440, tel. (315)339-0437.

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