Feature Writer

On Sunday May 3, at exactly 3 p.m., a parade of cars, motorcycles, pick-up trucks, four-wheelers, semis and fire trucks came around the corner at the intersection of SR 637 and County Road 171, near the Five Span bridge.

Each of the 46 vehicles in the parade was decorated with balloons, streamers, posters and signs wishing Emma “Katie” Brown a happy 90th birthday.

Amanda Brown, Katie’s granddaughter, said Katie had commented in years past that she didn’t want a big fuss made for her birthday. “But earlier this year, she said she wanted a big bash since she was turning 90,” Amanda said. “We were planning to have a huge party for her that day, since her actual birthday was on a Sunday and all her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids could get together. But then the coronavirus changed our minds. We still wanted to do something special for her, so we organized the parade.” Prior to the parade, family members had decorated Katie’s front yard with signs wishing her a happy birthday to make her think that was the extent of her celebration. Two of the signs asked passers-by to “Honk!” as they drove by.

Katie lives with her son on County Road 171 but is not able to get out of the house very often because of several medical conditions. But that doesn’t dampen her lively, happy spirit. She clapped, cheered and waved at each vehicle carrying friends, relatives and well-wishers as it passed by her home. Several times she raised her bottle of Old Milwaukee and shouted, “Come on in and have a beer and help me celebrate my birthday!”

Katie is the mother of three daughters and two sons, one of whom is deceased. She has 12 grandkids and several great-grandkids. Family members posted notices about the upcoming parade on social media sites, asking friends and neighbors to add their sports cars, four-wheelers and other vehicles to the festivities. “We really didn’t expect the turnout to be this good,” Amanda said. “We’re all just thrilled with the number of people who showed up to help Grandma celebrate.”

Amanda and her cousin from Alabama, Heather McCullar, brainstormed by phone and email to put the parade together. At 2:30 that afternoon, the vehicles and their occupants gathered in Junction to add decorations. “We didn’t expect this many units in the parade,” Amanda said, pleased with the turnout. “We just spread the word between family members and friends and it kind of snowballed from there. I think Grandma was very surprised to see all the people driving by and honking and waving.”

Was Katie surprised? “I knew they were cooking up something when they put all the signs in the front yard,” she said. “But I sure didn’t expect all these cars and trucks to be passing by. This was a total surprise and the best birthday I’ve ever had!”