One of my favorite childhood memories is the Fourth of July parade in Berthold, North Dakota, my dad’s home town. I remember the thrill of waiting for the parade to begin and the anticipation of scooping up Tootsie Rolls and butterscotch candies as they bounced onto the street at my feet almost like it was yesterday.
Yesterday I went to a parade for the first time in more than ten years. I haven’t gone to a parade since my kids have gotten ‘too old’ for me to take them. It strikes me though, maybe parades are like a good animated children’s movie and you shouldn’t miss out on them just because you don’t have a small child to disguise the fact that you’re the one who really wants to see Happy Feet Two.
For the past four years I’ve driven under the banner that spans Main Street from the week before Thanksgiving to the first Saturday in December. And every year I thought to myself “I should go to The Olde Fashion Christmas Parade.” This year I didn’t just think it, I did it.
At 2:45 pm I hopped on my bike, braved the chilly temps, enjoyed the sunny blue sky, and pedaled my way down the towpath into town. I felt a small thrill of anticipation run through me as I emerged from the towpath and walked my bike toward the corner of East Afton and Main. While I’m a bit too old to scoop candy out of the street I still couldn’t wait to hear the marching band, wave to the beauty queen perched in her convertible, and plug my ears at the sounds of sirens and gunfire. I parked my bike and scoped out a good spot to take pictures and watch the activity around me.
I had to laugh as I watched one little girl in particular. She was completely unable to contain her excitement and in spite of her parents and grandparents best efforts she escaped into the street more times than I can count. She peered one way and then the other, her blue eyes as wide as saucers, clapping and squealing “I think I hear the drums. I think they’re coming!” It was only thirty minutes, but it felt like three hours as we waited for the parade to begin and with each passing moment my feet got colder and her enthusiasm grew rather than diminished and she passed the time by twirling and dancing her way to a better viewing spot.
Parade volunteers passed out goody bags with crayons and a coloring book. The souvenir vendor wheeled his cart of inflated candy canes and super heroes up and down the street and grunted, “Parade Souvenirs! Get ‘em here!” Kids were everywhere: playing tag, eating giant pretzels, and riding on mom or dad’s shoulders. There was a mixture of approaches to keeping kids from going too far into the street from doing nothing, to holding on to a hood like a leash, and everyone’s favorite the group of siblings being bossed around by big sis (the latter was by far the most effective).
Finally the blinking lights of the police car leading the parade were in sight. The adults around me chatted idly while the children hung onto their hats, threw scarves up in the air and bounced up and down. The parade had begun and the rat a tat tat of the drum got louder and louder.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the carolers dressed in Dickens’ like garb and I smiled and tapped my foot as the band marched by. I laughed at Scooby Doo and Dora, was delighted when George Washington waved at me from his boat, and stood in awe as the majestic horses passed by. But most of all, I relished the air of excitement and the feeling of community.