Marriage proposal among highlights at 93rd parade
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent September 3, 2012 7:12PM
People pack Commercial Avenue, in Lowell, on Monday during the annual Lowell Labor Day Parade. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 5, 2012 6:11AM
LOWELL — The idea might not have persuaded the judges either way, but Steve Kouimanis made his girlfriend the happiest woman alive Monday afternoon.
As the truck for Kouimanas Chiropractic pulled up in front of the judges during the 93rd Annual Labor Day Parade, Kouimanis, the owner, dropped down on one knee and proposed to girlfriend Tiffany Bougie while his employees and parade goers cheered wildly. The shocked woman trembled before leaping into his arms and sliding on the ring, leaving no question that her answer was a resounding “Yes!”
Just over 100 floats — 102, to be exact — participated in the state’s longest-running Labor Day parade, said its coordinator of nine years, Sue Peterson. With four different entry points for the floats, and Peterson directing them their apex, everything flowed smoothly onto Commercial. Not even an ambulance rushing a woman who had a seizure to the hospital upset the balance too badly.
“I was a little nervous the first year,” Peterson said between directing floats and coordinating the ambulance through the crowd. “We tried it just from the high school that first year, and we discovered having the four entry points works much better.
“Now, we give people a number and a location.”
Peterson said she and her committee start organizing the parade in June along the 1.7 mile route.
Over in the Lowell High School parking lot, several contestants in this year’s Distinguished Young Women competition clamored over to competition director Pat Konyk’s truck for some ice-cold water while waiting for their turn. The young ladies — Morgan Farrell, Kristina Benkovich, Shelby Downen, Lindsay Ward, Rebekah Barnett and Vicki Miley — weren’t expecting the weather to be so warm while they wearing their competition gowns.
“At least it didn’t rain like last year,” Shelby said before the group sought shade near the building.
Several other Distinguished Young Women contestants performed with the Lowell High School Marching Band, Morgan said, and had the option to join them later if they wished. They were all perfectly supportive of the choice.
“I like how (the contestants) are all varied,” Morgan said. “We have cheerleaders and people in band, basketball and soccer, so if they wanted to march, that was fine.”
Konyk, who also owns Patricia’s School of Dance and has now participated in the Lowell Parade 66 of its 93 years — first as a 3 year-old with her father, then as a student with a Gary dance school and finally with her own school — laments that nowadays, her students would rather ride than walk the parade. Nevertheless, she’s happy to keep participating year after year.
“It’s dedication,” Konyk said. “I love my town, and I love my kids.”