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Crystal Allen, a nurse at the Wichita VA hospital, was selected to serve as grand marshal in this year’s Derby Independence Day parade on July 4.

Crystal Allen has regularly been attending the Derby Independence Day parade since moving to the community in 2008. Now, Allen will go from spectator to participant as she was chosen to serve as grand marshal in this year’s parade.

“It will be a different experience,” Allen said. “I’m usually not one that likes to be the center of attention and being at the front of the parade, that kind of puts you right there.”

As grand marshal, Allen will be riding up front with organizers from VFW Post 7253, waving and greeting everybody who comes out for the event.

While it was noted candy can’t be passed out this year (due to COVID-19), Allen is still glad to be taking part and that the parade is going on as planned – giving the community an outlet over the Fourth of July holiday.

“It’ll be fun to see how the turnout is,” Allen said. “It’ll be nice if there’s a lot of kids, giving them something fun to do over the summer since everything has basically been taken away from them.”

Typically, being a spectator with her family, Allen said some of her favorite parts of past parades have been the school dancers as well as the floats (and seeing everyone’s different ideas).

For this year, riding along as part of the parade, Allen noted she is excited to take on the role of grand marshal.

Given all that is going on the world with the current pandemic, VFW Post 7253 Commander Jay Boyle said the organization’s goal was to bring light to the work being done by frontline health care workers throughout the local communities with this year’s parade grand marshal selection. And Allen, a primary care nurse at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Wichita, was happy to carry that banner.

“Right now, I feel like it’s an important role to be a frontline worker. Some people see us as a negative,” Allen said. “I think that it’s important to see us all in a positive role, too, because I also know that in my field of work we are stressed out sometimes to the max, so I think it’ll be nice to be able to have some fun and let people see that we can be relaxed also.”

Currently, Allen has been working at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center for a few months (since the start of the pandemic), but her history as a nurse dates back 10 years, including stints at Villa Maria in Mulvane, Cypress Heart in Wichita and more.

Times have certainly been tough, as Allen noted some patients have had difficulty understanding the delays in appointments and the move to teleconferencing. Meanwhile, while the hospital has been operating at limited capacity, the primary care unit has been converted to help address the COVID-19 situation.

“My role there is basically primary care. It’s been challenging,” Allen said. “It’s been a little bit crazy because we’re still expected to run our side of the clinic at the same time as well as trying to take care of anybody and everybody who comes in for these tests, screenings and swabs. Some days it’s fine and some days it’s not.”

Starting at Fire Station 81, the parade will proceed west down Madison Avenue, south down Georgie Avenue, east on Market Street and then north on Westview Drive back to the staging area by the fire station. The parade is set to begin at 10 a.m. July 4 and it was noted by organizers that there will be no bathrooms available at the staging area.

July 1 is the deadline to enter the parade. Entry forms (available at vfw7253.org) can be emailed to derbyvfw@yahoo.com.

Being in the parade (and at the head of it) will be new to Allen, but she said she is looking forward to it – even if there is a little anxiety.

“I’m kind of shocked because I wasn’t really expecting it, but I’m proud to do it,” Allen said. “I’m a little nervous, but I don’t think there’s a whole lot I can do wrong.”

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