ZorroFest coming next summer, includes kids' parade

Marianne Gillespie
mgillespie@timestoday.com
Artist and Zorro aficionado Peter Poplaski painted this rendering of an older Johnston McCulley with various Zorros in the background. The painting is on display at the Chillicothe Historical Society's Fourth Street Museum. McCulley was a 1901 graduate of Chillicothe High School and was named a Chillicothe/IVC High School Distinguished Alumni in 2013.

Chillicotheans may see a lot of dark, handsome men swashbuckling around town in preparation for a new event.

ZorroFest is capitalizing on the fact that the creator of the Zorro character, Johnston McCulley, is a 1901 Chillicothe High School graduate.

Add that to the claim that Zorro was the first superhero as written in the “The Curse of Capistrano” in 1919, and a new parade idea emerged — a superhero parade, where both children and adults can dress up as superheroes.

“It’s a theme parade that nobody else has around central Illinois,” said Dave Hirtz, who is spearheading the event.

He envisions 15 men dressed as the black-clad Zorro in the parade, followed by children ages 6 and up dressed as their favorite superheroes, mascots from sports teams and businesses, followed by “real” heroes, such as veterans, historical figures, service clubs, businesses, etc.

The main parade, which will follow a different route than other Chillicothe parades, is planned for 11 a.m. June 13

during Claud-Elen Days and will serve as the parade for the event. Around noon after the first parade is over, a smaller kiddie parade for those ages 5 and under will commence.

Once the parades are complete that day, activities for ZorroFest will be Cutright (River) Park until 5 p.m.

With tents aplenty, Hirtz said he plans for residents to mill around, take photos with their favorite superheroes, grab a bite to eat and more.

The idea for ZorroFest and the superhero parade began after Hirtz listened to the three mayoral candidates discussing Chillicothe. Doug Crew, who won the election, made a comment about the city not having a festival that was a destination. Hirtz then heard a presentation from Gary Fyke, who was researching McCulley’s history as the Chillicothe Historical Society put together a new exhibit on McCulley and his Zorro.

“I walked up to the front of the room and said flippantly, ‘We ought to have ZorroFest,’” Hirtz recalled.

That comment has kept Hirtz busy this summer as he traveled to other parades around the area, passing out information about ZorroFest and the parade.

As the weather turns colder, Hirtz will make presentations about the event to whomever wants to hear more about it and has a promotional video to show.

“We have the coolest parade with a dashing superhero, not a tomato or pumpkin,” Hirtz said. In his discussions with others, people repeatedly say the idea is “cool.”

A standing committee of the Chillicothe Historical Society met for the first time at the end of September to plan for the event. They will meet once a month.

There is no cost to be in the parade, but Hirtz does want to know about how many people to expect.

Sign-ups will be closer to the event, but anyone wanting to get on the email list or volunteer to help should email Hirtz at drhjaws@frontier.com or call 253-1010.