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Big parade for small town

Pana Labor Day Parade

by: Kaitlyn Conrad/Photo and Web Editor

For roughly 85 years, Pana has been entertaining residents and visitors with floats, bands and more at the annual Labor Day Parade. This year, the parade will be held Monday, Sep. 2 at 10 a.m.

Jim Downs, the general chairman of the parade, is the man in charge of bringing the parade together. Downs works with the other chairmen, helping fundraise, and has been assisting with the parade for 30 years, 20 of those as chairman.

Pana Labor Day Parade closer up kaitlyn conrad

A mural of a past Pana parade near 2nd Street and Poplar.
Photo by Kaitlyn Conrad

Unlike most parades, there is no registration. Those who wish to participate simply show up and go to their designated area. There are four separate categories: floats, antique cars and tractors, politicians and general entries. Once the parade starts, Downs will direct the line-up.

“It’s kinda show up, line up in a certain area, and then we line them up as them come to us…a show up and we’ll get you in the parade,“ Downs said.

A wide variety of participants are expected this year: antique cars, tractors, politicians, fair queens, Shriners, marching bands, floats and more. Rochester, Taylorville and Pana high school bands will walk the streets Labor Day morning, as well as Pana and Ramsy Junior High. One of the main events for the parade this year is the University of Illinois’ Marching Illini. All 350 members of the Marching Illini will be visiting Pana for the first time in 20 years; they participated in the Pana Labor Day Parade in 1991 and 1993. Other fun exhibits expected this year are a car made to look like a red Flyer Wagon and the Decatur Power Drillers.

Up to 20,000 people have been estimated to come and view the Pana Labor Day Parade. Downs said that one of Pana’s Chamber of Commerce members called their parade the “largest downstate Labor Day Parade.”

“It’s a big parade but it’s a hometown parade,” Downs remarked. While the parade itself is made up of mostly locals, people from all over the state come to see this parade.

This Labor Day weekend is a busy one in Pana; the Pana Tri-County Fair will be going on from Wednesday August 28 to Labor Day.

“It’s kinda Pana’s unofficial Homecoming weekend,” Downs stated. “…it’s the weekend a lot of people come back to town.” For more information about the Pana Tri-County Fair, please see

The parade will start on 2nd Street and Poplar, will go west one block to Locust and then south for two blocks to 4th Street. It will then go east on 4th for two blocks to Kitchell , then south  where it will end at the gate of Kitchell Park. The parade route is a mile long.

Jim Downs can be contacted at 217-562-3966 with questions or comments.

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