Crowds lined the streets, creating a gauntlet for fire trucks, farm equipment, horses and marching bands. And appearing prominently near the front of the parade pack at the annual Western Days celebration in Twin Falls last week was a reminder from the transportation department to check on winter driving conditions before starting a journey.
Winter driving conditions?
Dennis Jensen, maintenance foreman for the Twin Falls area, wanted to use an ITD snow plow and one-ton dump truck to focus attention on the state’s 511 Traveler Services, which provides road, weather and tourism information on the Web and on an interactive telephone system.
Jensen thought more people needed to know about 511, not only its winter reports but also summer highway construction reports and general travel information. So he had special banners produced at Headquarters (designed by Pauline Davis) and displayed them on the snowplow. One banner was attached to the front of the plow blade.
While the ITD trucks made their way down the three-mile corridor from College of Southern Idaho to the Twin Falls City Park, several volunteers handed 511 promotional fliers and candy to spectators lining the streets.
Jensen figures the volunteers distributed more than 1,000 cards and about 150 pounds – half of a 55-gallon barrel – of candy to the thousands of parade spectators. Many took the fliers and were engaged in reading them as the ITD vehicles continued down the parade route.
The maintenance foreman was surprised at the number of people who were not familiar with 511 Traveler Services, despite two successful years of operation and widespread media attention.
“I think there were quite a few people who didn’t know about 511-CARS, so this was a very valuable experience,” he said of the parade presence. “It was a great way to let the public know about the benefits of 511.”
While he helped provide logistical support for the parade organization, maintenance crew members Steve Porter and Brad Lynch drove the snowplow and dump truck respectively. Jensen said about eight people represented ITD in the parade, including Dave Dana who helped with logistics and Amee Vanderwey of the District 4 shop in Shoshone.
They had to line up for the parade at 7 a.m. and finished the two-hour journey at about noon.
This was the 26th year for the Western Days parade, said organizer Mary Ann Taylor. It attracted 131 entries and was part of a three-day community celebration that included an arts-and-crafts fair, food vendors and entertainment at the city park.