Last weekend I watched three parades – one from a standing position and two from the shaded comfort of a portable chair (the type that folds into a finger-pinching shape suitable for easy transport). Just to clear up any misunderstanding I should tell you that the parades were on three separate days in two separate towns. To stay in one spot and have three parades file by would be quite unusual and require a great deal of patience.
It’s hard to avoid a parade when you grow up in Minnesota. Most everyone has seen several before their tenth birthday, and by the time they have graduated high school they have most likely walked (or marched) in one or two.
I have seen dozens of parades from the safety of the curb. I have also marched in a couple wearing a high school band uniform, walked in several to support a cause, and drove cars in them during the homecoming festivities of both high school and college.
In college it was a ’73 Chevrolet Caprice convertible that was driven on the downtown mall in St. Cloud past the morning celebrants. In high school I sat behind the wheel of a ’76 Chevrolet Chevette (Herbie’s cousin).
As fun as it is being in a parade, it may be more fun to watch, but not all the time. I remember being scared out of my mind by the Vulcan Krewe of the St. Paul Winter Carnival. It seemed that no matter what parade my parents took us to the Vulcans were there waiting to swoop down on us.
These fallen angels would ride in on the back of an old fire truck. The truck always seemed to stop in front of us, and with the siren screaming they would descend upon the innocent. As terrified children clung to their father’s pant legs these masked demons in their red capes and boots would smear the faces of women with a greasepaint kiss. I don’t think Mom was ever set upon by one of their horde; perhaps it was the frame of my larger-than-life father that protected her.
Time marches on and the Vulcans have been forced to modify their behavior, but thankfully we still have old fire trucks crawling down the main streets of small towns. I think that the parades in small towns are better than those of large cities. Macy’s Thanksgiving parade has turned into such an orchestrated hoo-ha with its Broadway-style shows performing for the cameras that I no longer watch it.
Of course there is a limit on the other end of the parade route where a town may be too small to host a parade. Many years ago Nathan and I were prevented from driving through a town because they had closed the only road through town to hold their parade. So we did the only logical thing: we watched. There didn’t seem to be very many spectators as almost the entire population was in the parade.
There were men driving their tractors down the middle of the street without any banners, walkers, floats or signs to indicate their sponsor or purpose. They may have just been headed to the field – it was impossible to tell.
I love a parade (the title of a song written in 1932 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler). I love the cars, trucks and the tractors. The floats with the royalty and their choreographed waves (one-two-three-four-switch sides), and the three-piece bands on hay wagons are small-town standards.
There are some towns that don’t allow politicians in parades. I like that idea, but perhaps they could be permitted under certain conditions: Since they are not royalty they should not be treated as such by riding in an open car or on a float. All politicians (elected or candidate) must walk the parade route. And as a second condition they should follow the horses.
I would even stand in the sun to watch that high-stepping spectacle.