TERRE HAUTE —
Terre Haute was suddenly home to thousands of cheering New York Giants fans Friday as residents welcomed Super Bowl champion Steve Weatherford back home for a parade.
Residents cheered as Weatherford, waving and smiling from high atop a Terre Haute Fire Department fire truck, traveled the four miles from Seventh and Wabash to Terre Haute North Vigo High School.
“We’re just proud of him,” said Roberta Santilli, an employee of the Vigo County School Corp. who was standing at Seventh and Wabash as an animated and smiling Weatherford passed by.
“He’s a hometown boy.”
Area high school marching bands, police vehicles and Chevrolet Corvettes led the parade. The Corvettes contained local dignitaries, including all three Vigo County Commissioners, Mayor Duke Bennett and State Rep. Clyde Kersey. At the head of the parade were Sam and Lisa Weatherford, the New York Giants punter’s father and mother.
“We want to show him we’re proud of him,” said Gloria Martins, an Indiana State University employee who was waiting for the parade at Ninth and Wabash in a light rain that failed to dampen her enthusiasm. Like nearly everyone watching the parade, Martins said she became a Giants fan for the Super Bowl.
“Since a Manning was playing in Indy, we sure all turned Giants fans,” she said.
Weatherford was joined atop the fire truck with by some of his high school football teammates. A large group of fourth- and fifth-graders from Rio Grande Elementary, holding handmade signs and waving excitedly, cheered happily as Weatherford rolled past.
“We’re very impressed that a hometown kid made it big,” said Donna Stewart of the Covered Bridge Special Education District, who was looking west down Wabash for the parade with her friends Amy Dinkel, Kim Beasley and Ann Marie Ferguson.
“It’s very exciting for Terre Haute to have such a positive experience,” Ferguson said.
At 24th Street and Wabash Avenue, Patty Love and Judy Haskell ran to collect candy thrown by their friend and fellow-Vigo County School Corp. bus driver, Lisa Weatherford, who smiled happily as she and her husband drove past at the head of the parade.
A few yards away, the Terre Haute South Vigo High School band suddenly emerged from the parking lot of an auto parts business and started playing as it marched east. The band struck up its music as it passed in front of a crowd of Woodrow Wilson Middle School students enjoying the parade and an afternoon out of class.
More than an hour after it began, the parade, now led by the North Vigo band, reached Maple and Brown avenues, not far from the entrance to Weatherford’s alma mater. There a group of about 10 Bemis employees waited to cheer for Weatherford and also to greet their Bemis colleague, Sam Weatherford, Steve’s dad.
“This is much more fun than the football game,” said Lynne Dunnavant of Bemis as Weatherford’s fire truck drove slowly past.
A few yards from North, the distance of the parade route and the chilly temperatures had taken a bit of a toll, even on the Super Bowl champ.
“Are you keeping warm?” Weatherford yelled from the top of the fire truck to his Bemis fan base. He added: “I can’t feel my hands.”
Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.