Everyone loves a parade. What’s not to like about them?
Parades are street parties, cavalcades, jugglers and clowns, unity displays, all rolled together into one. Every costumed girl on a float is a debutante at her own ball, a beauty queen on display.
Parades are diverse. Parades are organized disorder. They represent.
Parades are boatloads of fun, as American as America can be.
I went to Wilmington, North Carolina to enjoy the annual Azalea Festival, which kicks off each April with a parade. And, soon enough, I had connected up with some new friends made possible by a shared interest in cars.
Hey! said one of them to me. You wanna be in the parade? We’re gonna be in the parade – come join us!
And so I carefully thought – for about a microsecond – about all the ramifications of a street party with a beauty queen in my convertible car, driving her while she waves to streetside throngs of admiring people.
Sure, I said. You bet!
I mean, like, it was doing public service by displaying public art, wasn’t it? I was spreading good cheer by smiling at strangers and waving back while they waved at me. I even took pictures of them taking pictures of me (or was it the car? Or maybe the beauty queen composed on the cowling?).
Parades, however, are not about individuals, but about an entire happening.
Harold Arlen, the famous composer of Over the Rainbow, scored the song made famous by its declaration: I Love a Parade. Few among us today can hum a piece of that tune, but heck! Everyone instantly responds to that title with a knowing smile. Parades are parties on steroids! You gotta love ‘em.
They are the sound of marching bands, with their horns and drums competing for attention.
They are soaring batons thrown high by strutting majorettes in glittery boots.
Varieties of floats adorn a parade: cartoon characters, fairy tale scenes, whatnot. Little kids scamper on them with their pets and squint at the crowd, while pretty girls in ballroom gownery smile and wave. Sponsors with stickers on their trucks grin and tow the float they spent all last night finishing up.
The colors and imagery of swirling costumes, exotic animals led by halter, clowns performing pranks, antique vehicles popping and hissing, honored military veterans marching in step, police and fire fighters rolling through with sirens blaring, energetic youth sport teams smiling, poking and pinching each other as they walk together in their first parade ever (ever!). Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and 4-H Club members and the whole American fabric on display for all to see. This is a parade!
Parades are all about diversity of people, and interests, and things. They are all about applied creativity and handicraft. They celebrate hard work and individualism and team effort and just getting ‘er done. And they are all about people enjoying their moment in the sun.
Parades are as American as America can be. They celebrate all that is good about our communities, our accomplishments, our past, and our future.
The audience, however, is just as important as the show. Without a community, there is no parade. And without a parade, there is no party.
Are you going to a parade this year?