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SIOUX CITY -- A Sioux City Sue competition, a cruising of the loop and a smile contest are back for River-Cade’s 55th year.

Phyl Claeys, longtime event coordinator for River-Cade, said he wanted to bring back the Sioux City Sue competition, a play on the 1940s-era song made famous by Gene Autry.

“I wanted to do it the last several years, since it’s been about 10 years since that had been done,” he said. “When the city decided to spend money putting the words to that song on the water tower in Morningside, I thought this was the year to do it.”

Red hair and blue eyes are required for this 18-plus competition, according to the song’s lyrics. Contestants can check in at 6:30 Friday at the Anderson Pavilion.

While there'll be a Sioux City Sue crowned, there will be no River-Cade Queen contest this year. Claeys said the queen contest has been turned  into a two-year competition for financial reasons.

“The fact of the matter is that we’ve done the competition now for over 50 years and we’ve paid out almost $500,000 in scholarships,” he said. “We’re extremely proud of that, but money is tight.”

Emily Croston is the reigning queen of River-Cade and a sophomore business marketing major at the University of Northern Iowa. Croston said she’s proud to represent Sioux City.

“My favorite part is getting to know the two princesses and make connections in Sioux City,” she said. She’s also looking forward to seeing children at the smile contests.

Kaitlyn Tooley and Hayley Lange are the River-Cade princesses. They each earned a $3,000 scholarship for their title, and Croston earned $4,000. The royals make many parade appearances throughout the year to represent River-Cade.

“This year we went to the Tulip Festival (in Orange City) and that had to be one of my favorites. I enjoyed the Ice Cream Days Parade (in Le Mars) too,” she said.

Croston’s parade preparations for River-Cade include dressing in a gown, doing her hair “a little nicer than usual” and looking a little more “queen-like,” she said.

Croston wants parade-goers to “enjoy the parade and take in the culture of Sioux City,” she said, advising people to bring water to beat the heat.

This year’s grand marshal is retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, a retired Navy admiral in charge of the USS Sioux City Commissioning Committee.

He said it’s an honor for him to lead the parade, and he’s eager to return to Sioux City.

“I have grown very fond of the people of Sioux City and the broader tri-state region,” Thorp said in a news release. “I have been overwhelmed by Sioux City's hospitality, as well as their support of those who serve in our armed forces.”

This year’s smile contest will start at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with judging at 2 p.m. at the Southern Hills Mall. There are three age groups: 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. Four finalists are chosen from each age group.

The finalists from the contest are part of Wednesday’s big parade and win a variety of prizes and a trophy.

“That’s a really cool event, I mean smiling, happy children,” Claeys said. “How could you beat that?”

Other events set for Saturday include the second annual skateboard competition, several sporting tournaments and the cruising of the loop.

“Saturday is a big, big day,” Claeys said.

Sioux City’s loop is loosely defined from 11th and Pierce streets down Pierce Street, then up Nebraska Street, Claeys said. He wanted to include the traditional cruise as part of the River-Cade 10 years ago, with a car show to follow at Knoepfler’s Chevrolet.

“Every town has an area where when you get your license -- and maybe for a few years after -- you cruise up and down the street. That’s the way it was 50 to 60 years ago,” Claeys said. “A lot of people my age have cars they had back then, and it’s very nostalgic.”

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