Birthday parade brings ‘smiles for all’

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Knox Gogel's great aunt, Lisa Feldmeyer of Huntingburg, holds a birthday sign out her car window while driving by the Gogel family's home in Holland on Saturday. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Knox wasn't able to have a traditional sixth birthday party. Instead, more than two dozen of his friends and family members showed up in a surprise caravan to sing him happy birthday and give him balloons and gifts. "It's my favorite birthday in my life," Knox said.


HOLLAND — The stretch of cars, trucks and SUVs in front of Knox Gogel seemed to never end.

Puzzled, the boy stood at the end of his family’s driveway on Saturday with his little brother, Krew, and the two watched as a quiet country road that cuts through rolling fields of farmland transformed into what looked like a congested, slow-crawling drive-thru line.

Knox turned 6 on Saturday. Just like every kid, he had been looking forward to having a birthday party. The energetic, creative, confident, outdoorsy child was understandably bummed when his parents, Jenna and Greg, explained to him why he couldn’t have a get-together this year.

COVID-19 stole that experience from Knox. But those closest to him still found a safe way to surprise him and share their love on his big day.

Twenty-three vehicles — some filled with balloons, signs and presents — paraded by the Gogels’ Holland home on Saturday in a surprise procession aimed at showing Knox that he isn’t forgotten.

Classmates, friends and family members cheered and honked for Knox, whose initially-perplexed look quickly dissolved into a big smile when he realized the noisy caravan was all for him. At one point, the line stopped, windows were rolled down, and a chorus of “Happy Birthday” filled the warm spring air.

Knox Gogel, 6, his dad, Greg, brother, Krew, 3, and mom, Jenna, watch the parade of cars drive by filled with Knox's friends and family wishing him a happy birthday at the Gogel family's home in Holland on Saturday. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Knox wasn't able to have a traditional sixth birthday party.

Knox had missed them. And they made the day more than memorable. After the last visitor cruised by, Knox told his parents the parade made his sixth birthday “my favorite birthday in my life.”

“It seems minor,” Jenna said of the gesture, “but to a kid, it means a lot.”

Mom got the idea from similar events that have popped up across the country since widespread social distancing efforts were put in place last month. She said that since those measures went into effect, Knox has talked about missing his teacher and friends at Color My World Preschool in Huntingburg. But he has also said he is happy because he gets to spend more time with his family.

The Gogels usually host birthday parties for immediate family, close family friends and babysitters. Before this year’s gathering was canceled, the theme was going to be Dinotrux, which is an animated series set in a fictional, prehistoric world filled with giant creatures that are half dinosaur and half truck.

Paraders who gathered at Huntingburg Elementary before heading out to the Gogels’ place spoke of how Jenna and Greg are good at mixing together everything to make the parties special and memorable.

They believed Mom and Dad were doing just that on Saturday.

“We need something positive after all this,” Mike Burton, who is Jenna’s father and Knox’s grandfather, said of the weight of life in the coronavirus world. “This would definitely be a positive for everybody.”

Knox Gogel, 6, waves to the parade of cars driving by filled with his friends and family wishing him a happy birthday at the Gogel family's home in Holland on Saturday.

Another attendee, Ashley Blessinger, reflected after the event that it was “one of the most memorable birthday parties we’ve ever attended.” Blessinger said that when people began congregating in the school parking lot ahead of the parade, just seeing and waving to them from her car was a connecting experience.

She has been friends with the Gogels for years, and her son, Tate, is good buddies with Knox.

“I think it was making the most of a bad situation,” Blessinger said of the parade. “I thought it was so clever, and it didn’t just bring smiles for Knox — it really brought smiles for all of us that were really needed.”

A few hours after the parade ended, Knox opened the presents he received and the Gogels ate a supper of his request, followed by a special dirt pudding dessert that was decorated with Dinotrux figures.

The family would like to host a gathering of family and friends sometime this summer to both thank them for coming to the parade and also serve as a reunion of sorts after the pandemic ends.

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