More than 150 cars, Williamson County first responders to join final St. David’s Round Rock parade

First responders from Williamson County Emergency Management Services, along with local law enforcement and fire units, will join the ranks in extending their gratitude, one blaring car horn at a time. (Kelsey Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
First responders from Williamson County Emergency Management Services, along with local law enforcement and fire units, will join the ranks in extending their gratitude, one blaring car horn at a time. (Kelsey Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

First responders from Williamson County Emergency Management Services, along with local law enforcement and fire units, will join the ranks in extending their gratitude, one blaring car horn at a time. (Kelsey Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

The past eight weeks of the coronavirus pandemic have been marked by anxiety and uncertainty for many residents throughout Central Texas and across the country. But one thing has remained constant in Round Rock: At 6:30 p.m. each night, rain or shine, a car parade greets health care workers at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center.

A barrage of horns, flashing lights and shouted thank you’s have become a token of gratitude to the nurses, doctors and first responders, who have been on the front lines of the pandemic. Parade organizers and participants are gearing up to go out with a bang.

More than 150 cars are expected to participate in St. David’s Round Rock’s final car parade May 15. First responders from Williamson County Emergency Medical Services, along with local law enforcement and fire units, will join the ranks in extending their gratitude, one blaring car horn at a time.

The car parades began in mid-March and were organized by resident Jen Henderson and St. David’s Round Rock CEO Jeremy Barclay. With heightened safety provisions and social distancing measures in place, the procession acts as a means of showing support to the essential workers who protect and serve vulnerable communities.

Mike Knipstein of Williamson County EMS said this parade will be his first to attend. The collaboration between St. David’s Round Rock and area first responders came from Barclay, who reached out to local units and responders. Knipstein said Barclay’s invitation acted not only as support for the St. David’s Round Rock staff, but also as a personal thank you to county responders who have continually served the community.


Tami Taylor serves as chief nursing officer at St. David’s Round Rock and said the support from Barclay has been “instrumental” in keeping these processions alive. May 15’s final parade is more than a procession, Taylor said—it is a letter of gratitude to every front-line worker in and beyond St. David’s Round Rock’s walls who has served Round Rock.

“As nurses we just feel like—we do our jobs, we take care of people. It's a calling for us,” Taylor said. “And then, to have the community recognize nurses in this way, it has been really inspiring.”

In the upper-level windows of St. David’s Round Rock, nurses have placed sticky notes on windows, spelling out messages of encouragement and thanks. Taylor said these messages serve a reminder that just as nurses serve their communities, their communities serve nurses too.

Following nearly 60 days of nightly parades, the event is planned to be its last. While health care workers continue to care for those with the coronavirus, the community can and has shown support in other ways.

Almost every day, residents deliver meals to nurses, doctors and hospital staff, Taylor said. Handmade and donated gifts have been raffled off to nurses as little reminders of the love extended to them from the community. An 11-year-old girl sewed face masks that she sold to community members, using the $300 in proceeds to buy Target gift cards for nurses.

Knipstein said during the past two months, restaurants have sourced meals for EMS workers, with residents posting positive messages to share with first responders on social media. Knipstein said he has received handwritten thank-you letters—a gesture, he said, that has brought added light to the more difficult moments the past eight weeks have presented.

“Handwritten letters—no one writes them any more,” Knipstein said. “The heart of this community is so strong.”

The World Health Organization designated 2020 as the international year of the nurse, prior to the onslaught of the coronavirus in the United States. This is not how she had initially pictured the year to go.

But the moments in between have reminded her that, just like the nightly car parades, nurses will be there to help, rain or shine.

“This isn't exactly the way we envisioned it being the year of a nurse,” Taylor said. “But it's very interesting that we've had all of this happen, because it has really brought nursing and frontline caregivers into the spotlight of what we actually do and how we actually care for patients.”

Editor's note: The text has been updated to clarify that law enforcement and first responders will be in attendance at the May 15 car parade.
By Kelsey Thompson
Kelsey Thompson is the reporter for Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto, where her work focuses on education, city government and community development. Originally from upstate New York, Kelsey relocated to Austin after graduating from Syracuse University in May 2019.


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