The new Cat Square Mayor has been elected and preparations are underway for what may be considered the most unique parade of the season. Life-long Vale resident, Benji Yount, joined a long list of distinguished individuals after being elected by popular vote as the 46th Cat Square Mayor. This year’s Miss Cat Square is Abby Workman and Little Miss Cat Square is Whitney Sneed. Kenny Jarrett is the Grand Marshal.
Yount is so popular on the western side of the county that he can barely go anywhere now without getting a slap on the back and congratulations for his victory. He’s as special to this close-knit community as the parade is.
“It’s great,” Yount said. “I’m honored. I love this community.”
Yount is also a lifelong member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Vale. When people are unable to get to church, Yount delivers bulletins to them. He also delivered newspapers for the Lincoln Times-News for several years. Yount’s mother, Jane, taught at West Lincoln Middle School for more than 40 years and his father, Ben, taught at West Lincoln High School and coached varsity basketball. A few years ago, Yount was the assistant coach for the West Lincoln High School varsity girls’ basketball team. Ben and Benji Yount were instrumental in forming what was known as the Vale Recreation Club, which became the West Lincoln Optimist Club. Ben Yount and Roby Jetton were the co-grand marshals of the parade in 2009.
“He taught us so much on the basketball court,” Jamie Houser, the Cat Square Parade organizer said. “He brought it to our level.”
These days, Yount takes care of his mother. His duties as mayor begin on Saturday, when he’ll ride at the head of the parade.
There’s none of the commercialism usually associated with Christmas in the Cat Square parade, which has more tractors and horses in it than floats. It’s authentic, like the people of the area. What you see is what you get. Everyone and almost anything is welcome in the parade, as long as it’s not dangerous or vulgar. Set in the middle of nowhere in the western side of the county – the Cat Square Parade is definitely one of a kind and the embodiment of small-town USA.
Started by a youth group with Trinity Lutheran Church in 1973, early in its history, the parade would draw hundreds of horseback entries. Today, the parade entrants are a bit more varied. A beloved family tradition, even if people move away from the area, they often return for parade day.
Thousands of people line the street hours before the parade starts. They tailgate, visit with people they may only see this one time of the year, some partake in “Cat Square Kool-Aid” and wait anxiously for the parade to start. Hundreds of pounds of candy is thrown throughout the parade. It’s always best to pick up the candy before the horses who bring up the rear come through.
Perhaps the most anticipated entry is the float made every year by Fulbright Lumber. The Fulbrights have entered a float in the Cat Square Parade every year since 1990. The construction of the float is top secret. The first float was a basic Yule Log and they have advanced to more complex creations such as a firetruck in 2001 (commemorating 9/11), a tank in 2002, an airplane in 2003 (to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers), the “Titanic” in 1998 and many more.
The parade begins on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 1 p.m. at Zur Leonard Road and travels down Cat Square Road to Bill Sain Road. Cat Square Road will be shut down around 12:30 p.m. so it’s advisable to get there early to find a parking spot along the route.
Given the rain forecast for this week, it’s unknown when the “Cat Square Fairy” will be able to paint the cat on the road in front of the Cat Square Superette. Rest assured, Houser said, it will happen. The parade will run, rain or shine. It’s pretty much a guarantee that a little bit of rain won’t dampen the spirit of the parade.