HELENA – More than 90 floats took to the streets of downtown Helena Friday, in one of the city’s longest running spring traditions – the Vigilante Parade.
Hundreds of students from Helena and Capital High School created the floats. Each showcased an aspect of Montana’s history and culture, from the gold rush and the election of Jeannette Rankin to the 1989 Helena train wreck and Elouise Cobell’s Indian trust lawsuit.
The Vigilante Parade began in 1924. Denise Feller said she has been coming to the parade for more than 60 years.
“I was in it in high school, each year,” she added.
This year, Feller was watching with her grandson Matthew.
“I like the activity with all the kids,” she said. “It’s just fun seeing that they’re still historical floats.”
Many students made last-minute preparations while their floats were lined up on Helena Avenue before the parade.
Helena High sophomores Ashlin Slanger and Kylee Floerchinger said their group of 11 students spent about three days putting their float together.
“It was hard work, but it was worth it,” said Slanger.
Their float highlighted the role of Montana women during World War II.
“When the men left, they had to take up of the men, but they also still had to do the jobs at home,” Slanger said. “So it was kind of like working double time.”
Both the students and the spectators agreed that the parade is part of what makes the Helena community unique.
“I just love the history,” said Slanger. “I honestly love Vigilante Day – it’s probably my favorite day of the year, because it brings everybody together and it teaches kids and it’s so much fun.”
“As a kid, I loved the Vigilante Parade,” Floerchinger said. “It was the best time ever – favorite memories as a kid. So I love that we get to help the kids experience that.”
Judging by the hundreds of children watching Friday’s parade, the next generation is already sharing in the tradition.
“We hope it keeps going for 100 years,” said Feller.
The full list of winners can be found here.