Our parade

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I can't really say I preferred it to the Rose Parade or to Macy's annual extravaganza, but our tiny community parade did have qualities all its own. When seen approaching from the distance, our parade resembled nothing so much as a clog in traffic, for the majority of participants simply drove in their cars. The cars had been rendered festive by virtue of the crepe paper streamers that were taped to the chassis.

Some cars did not even have streamers, and I suspect that these were normal traffic vehicles whose drivers found themselves unable to pass the parade. The drivers resigned themselves to crawling along as part of the festivities, and as the spirit of the event took hold, they smiled and waved with the best of them.

The really top-notch public processions always include a few celebrities, those high-visibility people who need only show their faces to delight a crowd. Our parade tried to follow suit. It reportedly included a figure from the world of sports. No one I spoke to knew who this fellow was, but it was said that he was ``a fairly good wrestler in 1936.''

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Although we saw several men who might've fitted this description, we were never certain which of them he was. So our sports figure provided something of the fun of that old TV game show in which a panel had to wear blindfolds and try to guess who the ``mystery celebrity'' was. In our case, however, the mystery was alive even without the blindfolds.

About midway through the parade came the equestrian unit -- which lived up to the word ``unit'' in that it was composed of a single gray mare. The beast looked tired and seemed to be weaving slightly. Possibly she was out of shape and was winded from the trek, for she had the appearance of an animal unaccustomed to any activity more demanding than standing around watching the hillside erode. I have never seen a horse sit down, but this one looked willing to be the first.

For me, the intimacy and informality of our parade were exemplified by a woman, presumably a den mother, who marched in the company of about eight Cub Scouts. A friend of hers among the spectators spotted her and called out, ``Hi, Martha. Are you coming to exercise class Thursday?'' Martha halted the forward progress of her contingent and yelled to the sidelines in response, ``No, I have to go to my sister's. Remember you met her at Lundquists' ? Anyway, she's got jury duty, so I said I'd wa tch the kids.'' She went on to shout that she wasn't sure how to occupy the kids' time but was going to bring some games along.

Meanwhile, the parade was getting backed up, piling up behind her group, but I think the 50 or 100 people who couldn't help overhearing were genuinely glad to know that Martha's sister's children would be well looked after.

Perhaps the most ambitious and also the most precarious of parade entries was the mobile tennis demonstration. This consisted of two golf carts that drove roughly parallel to each other on opposite sides of the street, each hugging its respective curb. The drivers held a tennis net suspended between their carts. A boy and a girl walked along on opposite sides of the net, the boy having to backpedal his way through the whole parade.

The idea was for these two youngsters to hit a tennis ball back and forth while continuing along the route. But the carts had trouble staying parallel, so the net was shifting around and, more often than not, impeding the ball's progress. Frequently the carts had to stop while a player retrieved the ball. Then when the drivers touched the gas pedals, the carts would again surge ahead out of sync, and the net would again develop a mind of its own, creeping up on the hitter or pulling away suddenly.

To me, and I'm sure to many others, this demonstration successfully portrayed the sport. I know I have accused the net of just such behavior in my own matches.

Certainly the parade's most impressive elements were the fire engines which brought up the rear. Four shiny, ready-for-action fire department vehicles rolled slowly by with sirens going full blast. Their noise grew so insistent that I began to suspect there actually was a fire up ahead. I thought, ``Maybe they're trying to get to it but are being blocked by the proceedings.'' This was the kind of parade that could keep you guessing. Were it not for a smile on the fire chief's face, I very likely would h ave begun yelling, ``Emergency! Make way!'' and created an indelible memory of foolish behavior.

The tradition of our local parade stretches back through the annals of time a mere two years. To my way of thinking, there's room for a parade that inspires adjectives like ``modest'' and ``unassuming,'' a parade that maintains an extremely thin line between spectator and participant. It's the sort of event where everyone who sees it has a good time, but no one feels too bad if he misses it.

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