The popular Moslem Shriners Parade units are returning to the Strawberry Festival Parade in Belleville on June 18, after an absence of more than a decade. The Shriners always draw an appreciative crowd to parades.
Parade Director Judge Tina Brooks Green said on Tuesday that since there will be such a huge number with the Shriners that she is putting them at the beginning of the parade line-up, following the Boy Scouts color guard.
The Shriners’ units begin with a Legion of Honor color guard of veterans with lots of flags.
Last week it was announced the Shriners will be a part of this year’s parade with their extensive contingent that includes little cars, motor units, clowns, and men wearing red fezzes.
The Strawberry Festival Parade starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 18, and parades down West Columbia Avenue to Five Points and then northbound on Main Street through the middle of the vendors’ booths.
An Afterglow gathering to thank the Shriner participants will take place at the Belleville Moose, said Don Mason of Douglas Carpet in Belleville, who is a Shriner and part of the unit that cooks the food. He said he’ll be cooking up hot dogs and hamburgers for his fellow Shriners.
On Tuesday, Frank Dougherty, Shriners’ Assistant Parade Chairman, said he expects at least 50 to 100 Shriners to be in the parade. The Moslem Shriners are based in Southfield.
Dougherty listed the units he expects for the Belleville parade, marching behind the Legion of Honor:
Clowns, Keystone Kops, Americans (with stagecoach), motorcycle units, Cycle Patrol of Harley Davidsons, Arab Patrol of synchronized marchers, Shriner leadership, Highland Bagpipers, Lancers in little cars, the Past Master unit, the Oriental Band, and Brass Band.
Dougherty said the most important units are the Child Care Buses, which are used to transport children to the Shriner hospitals. “That’s our most important project,” he said of helping children.
The Ancient Arabic Order of the Mystic Shrine, known commonly as Shriners, was organized in 1870 as an appendant body to Freemasonry. It is best known for running the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
It describes itself as a fraternity based on fun, fellowship, and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth. There are about 340,000 members in 193 chapters worldwide.
Usually, the Shriners are given donations by parades to participate, but the Strawberry Festival committee said it didn’t have any money and doesn’t pay for units.
The Shriners agreed to come to this year’s Strawberry Festival Parade without payment, but there are some in the community seeking to find donations for them and their work.