HEFLIN — The Cleburne County Homecoming Parade wasn’t the only procession in downtown Heflin on Thursday.
Eighteen-wheelers and many other vehicles clogged Heflin roadways most of the day due to traffic being diverted there following a fatal traffic accident on Interstate 20 around 10:30 a.m.
City and school officials rerouted the parade, which was supposed to have been along Ross Street, to a path that began at the high school and ended behind the city’s amphitheater.
Homecoming On Main also included live music, a bonfire, food, games and lots of spirit.
Homecoming on Main in Heflin, Al. Thursday night. The Cleburne County High School band played as cheerleaders, the football team and fans celebrated at a bonfire. pic.twitter.com/Jdb0X35tyq— Bill Wilson (@bwilson_star) September 20, 2019
Jeffrey Bryant, Cleburne County High School principal, said he had talked to Heflin Mayor Rudy Rooks and city management to quickly find an alternative route.
“What we agreed on and came up with worked out well, we’ve got a large crowd here — the city’s done a real good job with this,” Bryant said.
Bryant was attending his first Homecoming On Main event, having been hired as the school’s principal during the summer, and was celebrating with hundreds of others near a bonfire.
“I think it’s great, anything we can do to draw interest to downtown can involve the school and the community together and collaborate like that and have a partnership is good,” said Bryant, a 1998 graduate of the school he now leads.
Crystal Cavender, Cleburne County’s Emergency Manager, was one of the many parents that dotted the revised parade route to cheer on her two sons who play football.
Cavender said it had been a long day overseeing her department’s response to the accident.
“It is absolutely amazing, a lot of people don’t understand really what goes into our emergency response. We had numerous agencies out on the interstate from different departments that weren't even in the area that the accident happened in, but they all came together, pulled together, and helped each other out. We had several incidents within the city — other accidents that were occurring at the same time, they just all pulled together. It’s just absolutely amazing that it went as smoothly as it did and anytime we have an incident like that that occurs on the interstate it gridlocks the City of Heflin, it doesn't take much,” said Cavender.
Rebekah Romine, a teacher at Cleburne County Elementary School, was watching the parade along the revised route with friends.
“All my students should be in the parade tonight ... it’s just fun for me to come out and watch my kids I’ve had in the past,” said Romine.
This year all Cleburne County retired teachers were recognized and were featured on a float in the parade.
One of those teachers, Mary Merrill, started teaching in 1969 and retired in 1995 teaching both in the high school and elementary schools.
Merrill and many other retired teachers were honored at a reception before the parade at the Heflin First United Methodist Church.
“I think it’s great, so many times we’re forgotten after we finish our time teaching ... it’s nice for them to remember us,” said Merrill, who’s the mother of John Merrill, Alabama’s Secretary of State.
Merrill said what she remembers the most is the love of the children.
“You can help them and sometimes you had to get on to them about stuff, but then they would love you for what you’ve done and they’ll come back to you and tell you that years later,” Merrill said.