As children await along the side of the street to snag handfuls of candy, parade participants will file down Central Avenue to compete for the best-themed floats and top marching bands.
    
The annual AppleJack Parade is one of the AppleJack Festival’s biggest events and draws in marching bands from all over the area. As of Aug. 23, Nebraska City Tourism & Commerce said that 10 marching bands had signed up to compete. However, NCTC Marketing Director Tammy Partsch predicted that number to double due to school just starting at that time.
    
Parade participants will begin lining up at 16th Street and will walk east along Central Avenue to 6th Street. Central Avenue will be barricaded for the free 48th Annual AppleJack Parade, which begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
    
The presentation of the colors will lead the parade, followed by local and area fire, rescue and law enforcement crews. The fire, rescue and law enforcement crews are normally at the beginning of the parade in case an emergency occurs in the middle of the parade.
    
Local Paralympics athlete Cheri Becerra Madsen of Union is this year’s grand marshal. Becerra Madsen has been competing in the 2016 Rio Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, since Sept. 7. However, her race won’t end in Rio de Janeiro.
    
Partsch, who has known Becerra Madsen since high school, said Becerra Madsen’s returning flight home is supposed to be landing at Eppley Airfield in Omaha at 11 a.m., which means she will have to race directly to the parade that day.
    
“Her husband says she’s going to make it,” NCTC membership specialist Pam Frana said while crossing her fingers.
    
Partsch said people can then meet Becerra Madsen in the sunken parking lot following the parade where she will be signing autographs until 3:30 p.m.
    
Partsch and Frana said Becerra Madsen was selected as this year’s grand marshall because she is considered to be an inspirational local hero.
    
“(She) was selected because of her … can we put general awesomeness?” Partsch said.
    
“That’s right. I was going to say awesomeness,” Frana added.
    
Partsch bragged about how fun it is to see 39-year-old Becerra Madsen beating athletes in their upper teens and early 20s.
    
“We’re just really proud of her and what she had done and what she decided to do,” Partsch said. “She is kicking booty and it’s amazing to watch.”
    
Partsch went to Nebraska City High School with Becerra Madsen and said she’s always been a fighter and optimist. Becerra Madsen has been bringing home wheel chair racing medals since 1994.
    
“She’s never looked at her disability as a disability. It’s just the way she is. She is a competitor at heart. She is a racer at heart. It doesn’t matter what form her body is in, she’s going to race and she’s going to win. She’s going to do amazing,” Partsch said Aug. 23. “It was kind of a no-brainer to have her as the grand marshall this year and she was really pleased to be asked and just thought that that was really special.
    
“It matters not whether or not she comes home with a medal,” Partsch added. “It doesn’t matter because we’re still proud of her.”
    
Becerra Madsen was also featured in 10/11 Now news station’s “Our Town Nebraska City” video series titled “One last ride for Nebraska City’s own olympian.” People can watch the video to learn more about her at www.1011now.com under the “Our Town” tab.
    
In the marching band competition, bands are judged on timing, marching and other official requirements by a group of judges watching from a riser. As of Aug. 23, most of the bands were from southeast Nebraska and Blair High School is still one of the largest ones.
    
“They take up a whole city block with their band,” Partsch said. “They’re really fun to watch.”
    
Frana said the parade will last between a hour to an hour-and-a-half and floats will be resonating this year’s festival theme “What’s Your #AppleTradition?” throughout the parade.
    
When the festival’s theme is selected, Partsch said it had to one that parade floats could incorporate into their floats to vie for the chance to win an award for the best-themed float. Plus, Partsch is hoping the theme will give the festival more publicity on social media sites like Twitter.
    
As of Aug. 23, Frana reported that there were 30 parade entrants signed up, but normally there’s at least 100. However, it was still early because some entrants will decide at the last minute to join in the fun.
    
In addition, NCTC boasts of the AppleJack Parade having the most Shriners than others in the state.
    
“They are coming from all over,” Frana said. “They were one of the first ones to turn their (parade) applications in. They love this parade.”
    
A bull will once again make a special appearance in the parade for the second time in a row to promote the AppleJack Extreme Bullriding Tour that will be the following weekend - Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at Hidden Falls, which is formerly known as Red Fox Run.
    
While people are getting autographs from Becerra Madsen in the sunken parking lot along Central Avenue after the parade, they can also see the bull, purchase tickets to see the bull riding tour and sign children up for the Mutton Bustin’ portion of the tour. Later that day, “8 Seconds” will be shown in the sunken parking lot beginning at 7:30 p.m. for free.
    
With last-minute submissions, there could be some surprise entrants awaiting parade-goers.
    
“Everybody loves a parade,” Partsch said. “It’s very enjoyable, there’s a lot of things to see, the kids get a lot of candy and there’s so many other activities going on downtown that it’s just a great place to be.”