ST. LOUIS • Saturday was billed as the Girl Scouts’ BIG Day downtown, and the hour-long parade celebrating their centennial attracted thousands of participants and spectators.

“A hundred years. Wow!” said Jane Emanuel, a leader of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 51 in the Affton area. She watched the parade move along Market Street with fellow troop leader Kathy Floyd and four of their Scouts, each girl 11 years old.

Emanuel said the staying power of the Girl Scouts as an organization was worthy of a giant celebration. But she also said she wasn’t surprised that the Girls Scouts had lasted so long.
“They’re teaching young ladies to be strong and independent. That’s an enduring message,” she said.

Plus, the four Cadette Scouts added, it’s a lot of fun.

“I like the flag twirlers” in the parade, said Ryleigh Gagen, one of the Troop 51 Scouts. “I really didn’t know the parade was going to be this big.”

Rissy Emanuel, Jane’s daughter, said she liked “the giant stuff, like the giant (inflatable) birthday cake” filled with helium that led the floats.

Jenna Floyd, Kathy’s daughter, said, “I like those people in the little cars and motorcycles,” referring to the Moolah Temple Shriners performing stunt driving routines along the parade route.

And Alyssa Bennett, the fourth Scout in the group, added, “I’d have to say the marching bands are my favorite part of the parade.”

In an unexpected bonus, the girls and their two leaders got to meet St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley, who had left his place in the procession to work the crowd. He stopped long enough to pose for a photo with the Troop 51 contingent.

“He was very friendly,” said Kathy Floyd. “It’s just a beautiful day and a great parade.”
The BIG Day, short for Believe In Girls, was organized by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri to observe the 100th anniversary. When the parade was over, the girls and their leaders moved on to refreshments, information booths, rides, games and musical entertainment in the park setting around the Soldiers Memorial.

Still, it was the parade that formed the day’s most enduring memories for many.
Featured floats included a model of the City of St. Louis steamboat, a patriotic float decked out in red, white and blue and emblazoned with a large “100,” and a float carrying tropical plants along with Scouts and their leaders, bearing the words “100 years of fun in the great outdoors.”

There were dozens of cars and other vehicles, ranging from antique and classic cars and hot rods to late model Chargers and Camaros. A modified bus called the Bubblebus used a large wind machine to blow soap bubbles over the crowd. Another specially painted Metro bus carried the sign, “A Century of Courage, Confidence and Character.”

One more highlight was a float with huge models of toasted marshmallows on sticks saluting one of Scouting’s campfire favorites — s’mores.

The Girl Scouts trace their beginning to March 12, 1912, when Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low assembled 18 girls in Savannah, Ga., for a meeting of what Low started calling the Scouts. She said she wanted all girls to get a chance to develop physically, mentally and spiritually. So her original Girl Scouts hiked, played ball, went on camping trips, learned how to tell time by the stars and studied first aid, among other activities.

Girl Scouts of the USA today claims a membership of more than 3.2 million girls and adults. Its records also show that more than 59 million women in the U.S. today are Girl Scout alumnae.