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The Grand Floral Paradein St. Joseph and Benton Harbor is held on the first Saturday in May in conjunction with the Blossom Time Festival which is the oldest and largest multi-community festival in the state of Michigan. It takes place on Main Street starting in St. Joseph, crossing over the bridge and ending in Benton Harbor.
According to the Blossom Time Festival website the festival was started in 1906 inspired by the regions many orchards.
Influenced by a growing agricultural industry, in 1906 Rev.W. J. Cady of the First Congregational Church in Benton Harbor was the first to urge his parishioners to drive through the orchards and view the fruit blossoms. Cady termed them “symbols of life renewed” and his sermon is credited with the birth of the Blossomtime Festival.
Governor Rick Snyder will head up the procession as grand marshal with an honor guard from the Berrien County Sheriffs Department and the Berrien County Mounted Division. Also scheduled to take part in the parade are U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph; state Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles; and state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville.
Chris and I got to Benton Harbor around noon, parked in Benton Harbor and walk the parade route to the start of the parade in St. Joseph. On our walk we observed a few things. First of all there was a ridiculous amount of police cars and officers blocking the roads to the Benton Harbor parade route. I only saw one police car in St. Joseph at one of the road blocks to the parade route. All the other roads were blocked by the standard barricade. Right before crossing the two bridges over to St. Joseph was a few hundred, mostly white, mostly union, and mostly dressed in red, protesters. That appeared to be the largest gathering of protesters along the route. There were a few other spots with small groups of protesters holding signs. The Parade began at 1:00 p.m. and it started with the Indianapolis motorcycle group followed by three cars, two of which were police cars, and then Governor Snyder’s group. He was walking with two bodyguards. The three of them were walking behind two officers on motorcycles and two girls caring a sign that read “Grand Marshal Honorable Governor Rick Snyder” and a traditional color guard. Following the governor was one police officer and a black SUV. What I observed as I followed the Governor through the 1.8 mile parade route was pretty offensive, in my opinion.
Follow me through the images to see what I observed as walked (more like ran) the route along with Governor Snyder. He walked the nearly 2 mile route in 39 minutes. No time was wasted, no hands shaken, no real stops, nothing but a fast steady walk that ended in quick disappearance at the end of the parade, into the black SUV, and off he went. The end happened so fast I was unable to get a photograph of him getting into the car.
Several police officers gathered at the Main St. and Riverview Rd. in Benton Harbor shortly after crossing the bridge. Although I was unsure of why there were so many there I will come to find out later.
The next four photos are the protesters gathering on the north side of the bridge on the Benton Harbor side of the parade route. They were mostly white and their signs and shirts alluded to the fact that they were mostly union protesters.
Why were their so many boats protecting the river by the bridge. You’d think the president was in town.
A few protesters wandering around the St. Joseph side of the parade before the starting.
Typical parade barricade and parade watchers on the St. Joseph end of the route. It felt and looked very much like any parade. People in chairs and on blankets with lots of children and the wonderful smells that you would smell at a festival.
My first view of the Governor.
This photograph shows all of the protection he had with him on the first half of the parade route in St. Joseph. Two bodyguards, two motorcycle cops, one on foot and the SUV. He was all smiles during the first half of the parade and waved a lot. A few shouts from the crowed, “great job, Governor. Keep up the good work!” and frequent applause. I could hear the marching bands following.
We leave St. Joseph and descend across the bridge to Benton Harbor. As he makes his way across I see a few golf carts driven by more police officers begin to approach the Governor and his entourage.
The view across the bridge facing south towards St. Joseph. At the top of the hill just leaving St. Joseph is the Benton Harbor Marching Band. Wow, what an amazing and talented group of kids. I almost wish I had followed them.
Here is the view facing north as I am coming to the end of the bridge into Benton Harbor. Just about everyone in the next stretch are the union protesters all standing and all very vocal. I start hearing the shouts and chants of the protesters calling for the recall of Governor Snyder.
Protesters turning their backs to the Governor as her passes.
More protesters with their backs to the Governor as he passes sober faced and looking forward.
Remember the officers from the first image? Well this is where they peel into the parade, at Riverview Dr. past the protesters and befor entering the main part of downtown Benton Harbor where parade goers were set up to see the parade.
You can see the people in the crowed watching the parade. Not really any protesters except a few dozen who are running along the sidewalks following the Governor after he passed them at the beginning of the Benton Harbor route. I just find it offensive that the security wasn’t really ramped up until after the protesters but for the rest of the route which appeared to me to be regular folks want to see a parade only this time mostly black.
He tried to put on a happy face bu you can really see the tension.
His now super large entourage of security closes in to him and looks as if they are on high alert. You can see a few of the union protesters in the back following along on the sidewalk.
Not looking so much like a parade, is it?
Here is a good image showing all the other police vehicles lining the streets around the Governor in addition to the two golf carts.
Just about the end here. 10-12 walking Berrien County police officers. Several state police officers on motorcycle. Police driven golf carts and a few four wheelers. It was a very offensive tight an secure barrier around Governor Rick Snyder as he walked through Benton Harbor.