Eight years ago, after convincing the Missouri Department of Transportation to put its iconic hand water pump back in its rightful place in the middle of Main Street in La Russell, the community started a tradition that has grown into more than anyone dreamed.


Eight years ago, after convincing the Missouri Department of Transportation to put its iconic hand water pump back in its rightful place in the middle of Main Street in La Russell, the community started a tradition that has grown into more than anyone dreamed.
This year on Thanksgiving evening, hundreds of people, at least three or four times La Russell's population in 2010 of 110, lined Main Street between Whitehead Farm Supply and the Post Office for the eighth annual Lighting of the Pump Parade.
With the sound of the train whistle blowing at the Post Office, Brandon Graf, grandson of the late A.E. “Nunny” Graf, a man who lobbied the state to keep the pump in its place, played his bagpipes and led the parade north.
Linda Heman, one of the organizers and a member of the Humdingers, kazoo band, called this the smallest parade in Missouri, but if it keeps growing every year, she may have to stop calling it that.
“Every year it gets bigger, everyone just gets a kick out of it,” Heman said. “I walked around today thinking what in the world have we brought, all these cars coming into town and people from Joplin calling me and saying they were coming. It's just gotten crazy and you know the people in the parade, and even if you don't, it's just fun.”
Chris Heman, Linda's stepson, brought his family to the parade from Seattle for the first time, and he was impressed.
“It really was like a Hallmark movie as we witnessed couples walking away holding hands,” Chris Heman said. “The only thing we couldn’t verify was if there was a rekindled love from years past that came alive when the fireworks lit the sky.”
More than a dozen floats, fire trucks and the famous Humdingers marched down the street to the waiting pump.
Once the last float had come to the north end of Main Street, the switch was thrown and the pump, with a small Christmas Tree accompanying it, were lit, and fireworks were set off up the street to the north of the crowd.
Then it was time to give out the awards, five of them.
The Ain't No Turkey award went to the float created by Bill and Calvin; third prize, also known as the Rock On Award, went to the Everetts Family; second place to Bruce and Laurann Robertson, who drove their float in from Lamar; the Pump's Choice Award went to the Whitehead, Gwin and Heman family float; and the Grant Prize went to the Sommers Family for their Charlie Brown float.
With the eighth annual parade in the books, Linda Heman said the parade is an example of a small town creating it's own day in the sun.
“I think it's just everyone getting out and having a good time and seeing what you can actually do in a small town,” Heman said. “You think you come from a small town and you can't do anything, this is proof that you can have a crazy idea and one time a year, people can act silly and dress up in tutus with lights on them. It's a lot of fun.”