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Students prep for Vigilante Day Parade

Students get ready for Vigilante Day
Posted at 11:29 AM, May 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 18:09:22-04

HELENA — Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the Vigilante Day Parade. While some Vigilante Day entries are built entirely the day before the parade, others spend weeks getting ready.

Bringing history back to life doesn’t happen overnight. On Thursday, students were hard at work the last few weeks preparing for the big day.

“We’re painting stages and putting together plywood and layering it on top of each other and then we have an archway that we’re going to attach light and make it look like the Grand Street stage,” said Capital High Drama member June Forsythe.

Capital High Drama students work on float
Capital High Drama students work on float

The snow and cold weather didn’t deter the students from honoring a part of Helena’s history.

“Because this is the 100-year anniversary, this is the drama club’s float, wE came together and were like ‘Hey, what do we want to do?’ and I’m like ‘Hey, it’s our 100th year, we’re a theater organization. Let’s do a theater float,’” explained Capital High student Paige Frumkes.

The students working on the float say it’s fun to think that 100 years ago students like them were doing the same float building with their friends.

“We’re doing the same thing that 1924 did and it’s just cool to think we’re part of that tradition,” Capital High student Victoria Summers told MTN.

Students working on floats aren’t the only ones polishing any rough edges for the parade.

CHS Cadet Dance Team prepares for Vigilante Day
CHS Cadet Dance Team prepares for Vigilante Day

For weeks, the Capital High and Helena High bands and dance teams have been getting ready for the parade.

“I think it’s really special. It’s such a long-standing tradition,” said Capital High Cadet Dance Team Coach Danette Ruddell. “It’s fun to continue the tradition. I was in the parade all my years of high school so it’s fun to carry it on with this crew.”

While a lot of attention over the years has been on the floats, every Vigilante Day has seen a marching band helping lead the parade.

Helena High marching band
Helena High marching band

Capital High band director Duane Zehr told MTN, “It’s a really cool and unique tradition that we have here. And to have it going for 100 years is very cool.”

“It’s one of the longest-standing parades in existence and for us to be a part of that history is very, very cool and I hope the students appreciate that too,” Helena High band director Cody Hollow said. “It has been cool going through the archives and seeing the marching bands in their cowboy hats. In one of the first bands, there was someone rolling a bass drum down on a cart.”

Band members like Carson Payne of Helena High recognize the legacy they are participating in.

“When we march we’re marching in the same footsteps that a hundred years ago they were marching,” Payne noted. “ The trombones are still sitting in the front where they were when they originally marched. So there’s a tremendous amount of history and you’re literally playing the music that was played back then.”

1935 Helena High Band
1935 Helena High Band

Even the students who had never participated in past parades or grew up in the area recognized just how special it is to be a part of the parade this year.

“I’m an exchange student from Norway,” said Therese Sorensen, “so I just got here this year and I think that’s pretty cool that it just happens to be the 100th year anniversary. It’s just wild that it's been going on for so long.”

“I just moved here to Helena this summer so I’ve never experienced anything like this,” explained Emma Hamill of Capital High. “The history around this town is pretty amazing.”

Capital Drama students work on float
Capital Drama students work on float

Like the generations that came before, part of the appeal for students to participate is spending time with their friends while also honoring the area’s history.

“Really one of my favorite parts of the year,” Aaron Heisel told MTN. “It’s so fun to be with all these friends and a chance to really come together and create something. And I know it’s the same way for all the high schoolers in Helena and very special.”

“It’s so much fun. I’ve always loved Vigilante Day,” said Capital High student Savannah Comstock. “So being able to not only work on it as a senior and ride on it with really good friends is really cool and I really enjoy that.”

According to Helena Public School, 99 floats are under construction with the celebration starting at 12:00 p.m. on Friday.