COLUMBIA — Ed Schumacher woke up at 3 a.m. to get ready for the MU Homecoming Parade.
By 6 a.m., Schumacher’s tailgate was ready with Missouri tents, games and tables for food. He was holding down the fort for the rest of his family, five kids and seven grandchildren, who he said will show up eventually.
Schumacher waited, bundled up with his iPad to keep him company.
"It’s an awful early one, but it’s one of those things I don’t think my family would miss," he said. "This is as big as Christmas for us."
The air felt like Christmas morning, too.
The parade started at 7 a.m., four hours before the game against the Kentucky Wildcats.
"The parade usually lasts a couple of hours," said Stephanie Anderson, who works for the Mizzou Alumni Association. "We want to give people plenty of time to watch and tailgate before the game."
The freezing air was harsh and many participants waited in their cars. Those who were standing outside were bundled in layers of clothing and held cups of coffee.
"We bought hand warmers," MU student Katie Sims said. She was lying down on the float with blankets wrapped around her and her friends. "We started getting ready at 3:45," she said. "We just didn’t go to sleep."
The early morning game, and the cold weather took its toll on the number of participants and parade-goers. The parade had about 180 groups signed up to begin with, but the number decreased after it was announced that the parade would begin at 7 a.m., said Carmen Rowe, a staff member of the Alumni Association.
"I get it because the game's at 11," said Chris Baker, vice president of Motorcyclists of Mizzou. "But I think there will be more people in the parade than watching it."
MU senior Jenessa Ewing was watching the parade with her dogs, Niblet and George, who were dressed up in black and gold.
"Most of the time I have friends with me, but they wanted to sleep in," Ewing said.
As the parade continued, the sun peeked through, and the air warmed up a little. More people began making their way to campus. "MIZ-ZOU" chants rang through the scattered crowds. Candy and toys flew through the air from the floats, and kids scoured the ground for candy.
Some Kentucky fans also came out to watch the parade. Joe Dalton, a Wildcats fan, said when his family planned the trip, he didn’t know it was MU’s Homecoming weekend.
"It adds to the romance of the morning," he said.
Don Arnsperger and Amy Swallow, MU graduates, were enjoying the show with their two young children, Colin and Anna. It was the kids' first time at the Homecoming Parade.
Colin, 8, caught a miniature football from one of the floats and was running around collecting goodies from people as they passed. Anna, 6, was pointing out the flowers on a float to her mother.
"They were hard to get out of bed this morning, but they’re glad they’re here now," said Arnsperger.
Don Laird, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, attended the parade with his three grandchildren. He stood next to them and kept close watch as they rushed after the treats. If they weren’t collecting candy they were staring wide-eyed at the intricate floats.
Just a few blocks down was another family watching the parade together. "The turnout’s not as good as last year, but it’s still fun," said Rick Clark, who visits from O’Fallon every few years for the parade.
Clark, who is an MU graduate, has a daughter enrolled at MU now and two younger children, who were also at the parade. "We’re breeding them for the future, too," he said.
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