Do you go to parades? As a viewer and enjoyer of the spectacle? As a float rider or route walker? Or would you rather be anywhere else?
Like many things in life, there’s nothing straightforward about the subject. If You’re the parent of little kids, you probably scope out a great location and arm them with ice cream pails for their booty. But what is a great location? Full sun or dappled shade? Near their friends or all by themselves on a quiet street to minimize competition for the best candy? Do you bring lawn chairs or look for a clean curb? Or do you stand so you can grab them when they stray into traffic?
If you’ve ever had any role behind the scenes, parades can be more work than fun. From taking the registrations to assigning spots in the line up to recruiting judges to awarding prizes, It’s a bit of a headache. Most small towns also offer a complimentary meal to parade participants, so add setup, shopping, cooking, and cleanup to the mix. Most registration desks end up with binders of paperwork and slightly harried looks.
Of course, the person registering the float has to succinctly describe the entry for the announcer. Last year Babas & Borshch entered the K Days parade. There’s a raft of very prescriptive rules, a non-refundable entry fee, and a selection panel. We made the cut. While it was a great deal of work that involved storing the float in Greg’s Sherwood Park garage overnight and a lot of waiting, it was a great promotional tool for the festival. As we passed every radio station remote setup, they read our description to their listeners. As we passed Global TV’s broadcast booth Mike Sobel did a walking interview with me through the truck window. Great exposure.
From what I’ve seen riding shotgun in countless parades over the past five years, not all truck drivers are created equal. There’s an art to getting the speed right, not killing any kids, not losing any of your riders. There’s an art to getting the sound system working so the mic and the Ukrainian mix tape work as we hope. As someone throwing our very cute Squeeze Your Baba stress dolls (imagine a bowling pin shape) out the window, It’s all in the technique. Despite that, inevitably they bounce and end up somewhere other than where I intended. Taking some photos and tweeting in that hour or so of waiting, waiting, waiting is also part of my job.
Here’s what I’ve observed about the observers. Some people are so busy enjoying sitting in the sun they have no idea what’s going on around them. Nor do they seem to care. Others can’t be bothered picking up the candy that litters the road and gutters. Some show their delight in the spectacle by clapping, waving, and calling out.
When the County’s parade float theme changes next year, I can’t say I’ll miss giving up umpteen Saturdays in a very short summer, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.