I am not a big fan of small town parades. They never really have done anything for me. You have your local cub scout and boy scout troops marching, followed by the local fire engines, followed by the area high school marching bands, followed by more fire engines, followed by local politicians in convertibles, followed by a float or two. If you have seen one, you have seen them all. When I was growing up, I am sure I attended at least 30 or so, small town parades between the Glenside July 4th Parade and the Hatboro Thanksgiving Parade. Out of those 30 I only have three distinct memories.
Memory 1. 1976 July 4th parade. I walked the whole parade route with my Godmother, Aunt Michele, as she tried to explain to me the significance of the Liberty Bell. A few weeks later she took me to Independence Hall to see the Liberty Bell.
Memory 2. Sometime in the late 70’s I watched my brother Pat shake hands with Don Tollefson. Don was (and still is) a local Sportscaster in the Philadelphia area. He was famous because he was on TV. He skipped right over me and shook my brother’s hand. I still can’t watch Don because of this.
Memory 3. “The Fat Lady and the Skinny Man” incident of the late 70’s. The story is complicated but this has affected my parade appreciation for a long time.
See? Only three out of 30. Parades are not the big of a deal.
Yesterday I took Maxfield to the Hatboro Thanksgiving Parade. Wyatt was napping and Lauren stayed home to work on the kitchen. It was cold, windy and raining. I thought Max would last a half hour. I thought wrong.
A local cub-scout troop led the parade. The kids in the procession had bags filled with lollipops. They were handing the candy out to the children lining the streets. Max took one and thought it was the greatest thing in the world. The next group to come by was a local church group of some kind. They were giving candy canes to the kids. Of course, Maxfield took one. Every other group in the parade handed out candy of some sort. I don’t remember ever getting candy at a parade. It was like a buffet line of candy, only the buffet “table” moved and not us. We stood there as people handed candy to Max. There was no way Max was leaving the parade early. He expected every group to hand out candy.
There were participants in the parade that were also handing out flyers and pamphlets for their causes(The last time I was handed this many flyers was when I was in Vegas, but the ones in Vegas were much more interesting). A group of people, walking with their Greyhounds, were handing out candy canes with information about saving racing dogs. I tried to explain to the lady I did not feel right about taking their candy because I have been to a few dog tracks in my life. She then handed the flyer and candy to Max. I tried to explain that Max, too, had been to some dog tracks as well. She started to give me her spiel about the mistreatment of animals but then a fire truck behind her blew it’s horn and she raced ahead so not to hold up the line.
I laughed as one local councilperson drove in a convertible that had car dealer paint on the windshield that read, “Buy Now for $1,999.” I thought that was appropriate.
About an hour into it, Max started to get cold. I taught him how to keep his limbs moving to help keep warm. We waved with both hands at the trucks and cheerleaders and dance squads and we stomped our feet to fight off the chill. We both looked silly and we laughed at ourselves over and over again. We sipped hot chocolate and ate soft pretzels we bought from a vendor.
The last float of the Hatboro Thanksgiving Parade, as is the tradition, is Santa. I didn’t really see Santa. I was too busy watching Maxfield’s beaming smile and his eyes light up as he waved to Santa and as Santa waved back to him.
I now have a fourth distinct memory of a parade and I hope to make many more.
I am, now, a fan of small town parades.