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52nd Humboldt festival celebrates Bible stories

In the beginning, the town of Humboldt said:

Let there be a parade.

And so it was, and ever shall be, known as Biblesta.

For more than half a century, the Biblesta Parade has a been tradition in this one-stoplight southeastern Kansas town, about a 2 1/2-hour drive due east of Wichita.

This Saturday marks the 52nd year for the parade that features floats of Biblical proportions.

There's the ever-popular crowd-pleaser "Jonah and the Whale," a motorized 40-foot whale with a man riding in its mouth.

"It's big and squirts water. And Jonah? You can see him from the waist on down, kicking his legs. It really hits people. They can't believe it," said one of this year's parade announcers, Ken Lott.

Besides floats, the town of 2,000 decorates some downtown stores with window displays based on Biblical events. Musical groups — nationally known Christian recording artists such as Hands of Glory, Community Choir, and the Missourians — will perform throughout the morning at the town square. Musical groups start performing at 10 a.m. and continue throughout the day, except for the parade and awards presentations.

Beginning at 5 p.m., those attending Biblesta will be treated to a free bean feed.

"Biblesta is the only 100 percent, nonprofessional, strictly Bible, church-type parade in the United States," said Larry Barnett, this year's Biblesta chairman. "We've had it for 52 years in a row except for the one year it was canceled."

Why?

"We had a flood that year," he said.

The parade starts at 1:30 p.m., and covers 12 to 15 blocks. Parade floats are judged in these categories: best drama, most authentic, most beautiful and most spectacular.

The grand prize winners receive $200 and a trophy. First prize winners receive $100. The winners are expected to donate the cash to a mission of the winner's choice or the American Bible Society.

"I don't think we get into a real competitive mood," Lott said. "It's more about what we can do to impress people."

Beside the biblical floats, the parade features walking entries, equestrian units and marching bands.

In past years, some entries have included local churches whose members dressed as Israelites and herded cattle and sheep along the parade route.

This year's entries include floats featuring Noah's Ark, Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and the Fishers of Men.

The inspiration for the parade came in 1957 to Arthur Carlson, a local veterinarian who, as his church was in prayer and preparing for a revival, envisioned a parade.

A catchy name was needed. Two words came to mind: Bible and Fiesta.

So, let it be written "Biblesta."

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