Cat Square Mayor Shorty Warlick 2022-1.jpg

Each year, as part of the Cat Square Parade, nominations are made for the mayor and an election is held. The beloved parade, which is in its 48th year was started by a youth group out of with Trinity Lutheran Church, who allegedly organized it because they were bored. There’s nothing boring about the Cat Square Parade.

A lifelong resident of Vale, Warlick grew up helping his parents run Warlick’s Short Stop, a local convenience store and garage, which used to be a gas station too. His wife, Becky, and two sons, Mark and Mike helped him run Warlick’s Superette (now Dan’s Superette) on 27 for 13 years. He sold out to take over Warlick’s Short Stop from his parents in 1996. Warlick’s Short Stop has been in business since 1961. 

Warlick is pretty much a one man show at the store. There’s an adjoining service station where he used to do a lot of mechanical repairs, but “age backed him off that.” It became too difficult to do the heavy, physical labor. He still does vehicle inspections. 

People in the area may not know the name of the store, but everyone knows “Shorty.” He’s been called “Shorty” ever since he was born.

“I was in Walmart a couple of months ago, back when you had to wear a mask,” he said. “A man and woman who were younger than me, offered to help me put some stuff up on the counter. They said I had a lot of stuff and that I must be going to have a party. I told them, no, I run a convenience store and a lot of this I’ll sell in the store. They asked what the name of the store was, and I told them, but they didn’t know where it was. I pulled my mask down and she said, ‘oh my goodness, you’re Shorty.’”

A good landmark to find the store which is on Plateau Road in Vale is to look for the train that sits out in front of the store.

“Years ago, I think it was in 2008, I made that train and put it in the Cat Square Parade,” he said. “It won first place original entry. I park it out there now and let the young ones climb over it. My sons used to take it to daycares, church festivals, and birthday parties and they ran it in the parade once. It needs a battery, but I don’t put one in it because kids will want me to drive them around out there. I don’t have time for that. I need to be in here.”

In addition to his other duties at the store, Warlick is a short order cook. Farmers, neighbors, truck drivers and other members of the community are regulars during breakfast and dinner.

“The customers are family and friends,” he said. “They don’t tell any lies when they come in here and sit. They’ll have their coffee, sometimes they’ll get a sandwich, a ham biscuit or steak, egg, cheese biscuit. The farmers, most of them chicken farmers, will come back around dinner, and they don’t lie either.”

Warlick’s two sons nominated him for mayor. He knew nothing about it. 

“They told me a couple of days later that I needed to go and vote for mayor, and I was on the list,” he said. “Me and my wife Becky went over and voted. Saturday after the count, my oldest son called to tell me I’d won. They’re the ones who’re really into it, but it’s all a lot of fun.”

At 76 years old, Warlick would like to sell the store to someone who’ll keep it going like it has been, but he’s still enjoying the people he sees every day. He did cut back from seven days a week to six and may start closing earlier on Saturday.

“I’d like to thank everybody who voted for me,” he said. “I’d like to give a special thanks to my wife, Becky and my sons, Mike and Mark and their wives, Deanna and Laura and to my grandkids, Cole, Tanner, and Tegan.”

The Cat Square Mayor has no real legislative power, but whomever is elected instantly becomes a local celebrity. The “Cat Square Fairy” paints the cat in the road across from the Cat Square Superette in the middle of the night before the parade. No one knows why Cat Square was even named Cat Square. 

Early in its history, the parade would draw hundreds of horseback entries and it still has a lot of horses in it today. Pretty much anything goes as long as it’s not vulgar or dangerous. It’s a beloved family tradition and even if people move away from the area, they often return for parade day. 

Come noon on Saturday, there won’t be a parking space left along Cat Square Road which is the parade route. Spectators 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. 

Last year’s Mayor and long-term organizer of the parade, Jamie Houser, doesn’t know how the Cat Square Mayor first came about. The story that he’d been told is that someone said that they needed to have a mayor. James Houser, being the local mechanic and owning the local gas station, everyone knew him, seemed to be a good choice. He became the first mayor in 1974-1975. 

The Cat Square Parade in Vale is Saturday, Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. The parade viewing route is from the corner of Dan Rhyne and Zur Leonard Roads, south on Cat Square Road to Bill Sain Road. Parade entry staging will start on Cat Square at Dan Rhyne and Zur Leonard Roads, lining up north on Cat Square Road and south on Houser Road to Zur Leonard Road from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

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