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The history of Helena's Vigilante Day Parade

Posted at 5:30 PM, May 04, 2023

HELENA — This year’s Vigilante Day Parade marks 99 years since the first ever Vigilante Day Parade was held in the city. How did this longstanding tradition get started? For that we have to go back to the turn of the 20th century, when the population of Helena hovered around 10,000 and the high school had a tradition called the “senior-junior fight.”

According to Helena history website, Helena As She Was, the goal of the tradition was for juniors to take down and desecrate the senior flag flown between the high school and central school. The fighting reportedly got so bad, the school got rid of the flagpole, but that didn’t stop the fighting. Seniors instead flew their flag on top of the high school building, and fighting moved to the roof. Even when the entire tradition was banned, the fighting continued and spread into the city, bringing violence and property damage with it.

The only solution that worked was the Vigilante Day Parade. The first parade of student-made floats was held in 1924.

While Helena has changed since the first parade, some floats are similar. This year’s parade will happen on Friday, May 5. MTN will be live streaming the 2023 parade and more information can be found here.