The older I get, the less enthusiastic I become about small-town parades. Not because I don’t enjoy watching Cub Scouts toss Tootsie Rolls to the crowd or dogs in costumes yank their handlers down the street or beauty queens wave from shiny convertibles. If these parades were finished in an hour, perhaps I could enjoy them. But they seem to go on forever, especially if you’re not lucky enough to nab a curbside spot in the shade. Or, in the case of Christmas parades, the sun.
But I attended a parade in Danville, Kentucky last weekend that broke the mold. So much so, in fact, that I thought it worth writing about.
I was there for the Great American Brass Band Festival and also—and, I confess, more so—to see grandbabies Eli and June. We kicked off the celebration Friday afternoon with a visit to Constitution Square where giant inflatable “bouncy” attractions had been set up. Eli spent most of his time in the pirate ship. June just toddled around and looked cute. We feasted on fried catfish and chocolate ice cream from the food trucks and enjoyed an excellent jazz concert on the way home.
The parade was scheduled for late Saturday morning. I tucked a book into my backpack, just in case, and plastered a “this will be fun” smile on my face as we set out on the short walk to Main Street.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a fleet of old-timey bicycles—the kind with a giant wheel in front and a tiny wheel in back—leading the parade. And imagine my delight when one of the cyclists dismounted and explained to me how one went about riding old-timey bicycles. I kept hoping she’d offer to let me try but when I found out the bike was worth several thousand dollars, I was kind of glad she didn’t.
Other highlights included the mayor of Danville waving from a Mustang convertible, Elvis waving from an old Plymouth Fury, and a handful of Shriners driving not tiny motorcycles or cars, but miniature 18-wheelers. Cub Scouts threw Tootsie Rolls and girls in pink t-shirts threw pink bubble gum and fancy ladies twirling parasols threw kisses and it was all great fun.
A Civil War brass band, wearing (gasp!) the dark blue uniforms of the Union army marched solemnly past the marble statue of a Confederate soldier perched on a hill near the Presbyterian Church. The Rebels marching band from Boyle County High School followed close behind. And no, the irony was not lost on me.
A boy who looked to be about seven years old stood near us. He was dressed in red, white and blue and tirelessly waved an American flag. Every time a parade participant sporting an American flag passed by, the boy shouted “Go, America!!!” Every single time.
The best thing about the parade was, of course, the brass bands. There were many, some from very far away and most with impressive credentials. The majority of those bands marched in perfect formation and in immaculate uniforms. One band had a tuba player who wore kilts. Another was made up of musicians dressed in crazy hats and mismatched madras. A small band rode in the bed of a pickup truck. Another in a horse-drawn wagon. My favorite was the band playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” from the deck of a pontoon boat.
As you might guess, I never pulled the just-in-case book out of my backpack. And the “this will be fun” smile on my face was entirely genuine. I might just have to change my opinion about small-town parades.
(June 12, 2016)