Last week Dave and I walked downtown to catch the Rose Festival Parade, as usual. Our timing was a little off. When we ambled up to the route, we saw that we had already missed some of it. But there were chairs set up right on the street, courtesy a hotel, and no one was in them, so we sat comfortably in the shade, feeling lucky, just in time to see a high school marching band come blatting by. Up. Town. Funk you up. Uptown funk you up. If that doesn’t bounce you in your cushy hotel folding chair, you need to get your bouncer re-strung.
This is my favorite part of the Rose Parade–all the high school marching bands. Everything about them. The uniforms that fail to make them identical: the clarinetist marching around inside his uniform just trying to touch cloth; behind him a uniform completely stuffed with trumpeter. The brass. The drums. The sheer bravery of the outgunned piccolo section. It makes me cry. If any of the bands rips into Stars and Stripes Forever, I fall apart completely. I can’t remember seeing any parades when I was a kid, and I was never in a band or orchestra. So I guess I’m nostalgic for a past I didn’t even have. Probably most of us are.
We settled in. Horses prancing by with flowers heaped on their butts, as fine a metaphor for overcoming adversity as I can imagine. A group of ladies from a foreign land doing swirly dances in diaphanous costumes. Bagpipers with knobby knees. A teeny tiny ladybug float that must have represented a budget shortfall in the city of Washougal. The Budweiser Clydesdales, which halted for a few minutes, casting about for people to stomp into salsa. The annoying announcer lady on the stand warning us to stay out of their way, just before she climbed down to have her picture taken in front of them. More swirly costumes. And then, a magnificent troupe of choreographed–what the hell? Street washing machines?
We missed practically the whole dang parade.
We missed the One More Time Around Marching Band, the old farts that maybe slap a rose on their antique high-school instruments and play Louie Louie to the very limit of their lungs for three miles. We missed every single float bigger than a ladybug. We missed the Rose Festival Court, although they’ve really been missing for years.
Used to be a thing. Every high school had a princess, and a nod was given to those who had a decent grade point average or a lofty personal goal and consideration for mankind, but they were all cute and sweet and decent, and we followed their selections in the paper, and picked favorites, and noted with approval their chaste matching outfits, and their trips to the nursing homes, and the coronation of the Queen the night before the parade. Then all those activities became suspect, and a greater effort was made to include girls who relied a little harder on their Inner Beauty, and then the whole princess idea became so civically embarrassing that they just nominated them in the dark of night and issued them matching T-shirts and jammed them onto a float and gave one of them a tiara but didn’t tell anyone about it, and nobody cares anymore. Missed them too.
But I can close my eyes and imagine the rest, the best. The high school marching bands from Wilson, from Beaverton, from Battle Ground, from all around, resplendent in polyester, kept apart sonically by wedges of floats and classic cars and llamas, but carrying the day, a glory in brass, a resounding pair of Louies bobbing above a sea of Uptown Funk. Don’t believe me, just watch.
What is it with America and all the marching bands? I don't think a single high school in Australia has one. kinda sad…
We don't have parades for every little thing either, which is also a bit sad. Guess we show our patriotism differently out here.
(just don't ask me how 'cos I don't have a clue)
Reallly? Not even a didgeridoo band? We don't have all that many parades either. Pretty much July 4th everywhere, and your occasional rose parade. OH! And Gay Pride. And St. Patrick's Day. And
I think Sydney's Gay Mardi Gras is probably Australia's best-known parade.
Growing up in NZ I recall Blossom Parades (springtime affairs) in several areas and most towns had "a bit of a do" around Christmas.I vaguely remember being Gretel on one float.Had to hold hands with Hansel…yuck!
I think dinahmow nailed it. I do enjoy watching the Gay Mardi Gras though. Otherwise? No marching bands, no parades. And suspicious about overt shows of patriotism.
Patriotism tends to set me on edge, EXCEPT on the 4th of July, which is where it belongs, with bands, and hot dogs, and potato salad, and the smell of lighter fluid, and the lawn catching on fire from somebody's bottle rocket–God Bless America! Mostly the potato salad though.
Maybe it's a Commonwealth thing, this dearth of marching bands and suspiciousness about overt displays of patriotism. Very little of that goes on up here in Canuckistan either.
There's not really a mess of patriotism in the Rose Parade.
I think that once you get to a certain age, you become nostalgic for a past that doesn't exist anymore… and likely never did, except in one's fallible and rose-colored memory. Everything from one's youth seems infinitely better somehow than everything today. When I was young, I made fun of the old farts who rambled on about the "good old days" and how it was so much better. And now I am one of them. Perhaps it's not so much a desire to go back to those times because they were better, but because we were young and had our lives ahead of us. There was so much to look forward to, and now we can only look behind us.
Damn, Murr… you've gotten me all introspective!
I think that's why so many romances are kindled during reunions. We feel good with people who still see us as sixteen.
I'm not even sure why there are parades. Our local ones go around downtown twice because it's only 2 blocks around. They throw candy at the kids to keep the dentist in business.
That candy-throwing thing is a big feature in your smaller parades. It's not chocolate truffles, though. It's the kind the old lady down the street would have in her little glass bowl.
I never saw a parade as a kid – except for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and that is a whole 'nother level of parade. I saw that one because my paternal grandparents lived in NYC and we used to go up there for Thanksgiving. They were incredibly old and rather scary, and the Thanksgiving dinner was always kind of weird, but the parade was amazing! I finally became acquainted with what one imagines is the quintessential small town parade when I fetched up in Charlottesville, VA. Turns out they have a Dogwood Festival Parade every year at the end of April. Marching High School bands (I was never in a public high school either, and always in the glee club rather than a marching band which didn't exist at my all girls school); Dogwood Festival Queen; Shriners in little zippy cars; people on horses; fire engines; candy throwing; all that stuff. Nowadays we rarely bother to go – but it truly is a wonderful scene. It would seem your Rose Festival Parade is the same exact parade. Except roses instead of dogwood. I'm pretty sure we've never gotten big time enough so as to be able to have the Budweiser Clydesdales, though. Them, I would like to see.
Dogwood, the state flower! I'm a Virginian, don't you know. The Rose Parade is a huge deal with big floats and nothing too small-town about it. But I do remember another staple of small-town parades out here, anyway. The boom-box cars with the hydraulics that can jack them up and down and sideways.
i have watched many a parade, and walked in some. Hate the walking in them. Love the watching them. You have caught the essence, especially the description of the band kids. Their attempts at coordinating march and music make me smile. The local high school has marching band competitions which are quite cutthroat. Our kids were in those, so we watched several parades made up only of bands. Not as fun to watch, but they loved those trophies.
I never got to walk in one. It's not my style anyway. I'm totally a tiara and float girl. Y'all know how much I hate to walk.
Indeed, I was a drummer in my high school band….and sweating through every-so-long parades. It was tiring, it got old….but fun too. Now I can hardly watch a band in a parade without tearing up. I think I;m getting too damn old.
I think it was Garrison Keillor who said that kids don't understand why adults tear up over things, because they don't have the past for it.
Y'know, that woman and her horse comprise a measurable percentage of Sherman county….and Moro is a neat micro-burg.
Haven't been to the Rose Festival in decades…..maybe '76 was the last one. Yeah….I think Bill Walton was in that one, riding his bike! About the same time he was hiding Tanya (AKA Patty Hurst) in his NW house.
You certainly do. That sounds vaguely familiar. Feel free to fill us in. Bill Walton is one of Dave's heroes.
As I remember, and it was '76, so don't expect any accuracy, it was because Bill was buds with somebody named Jack Scott (I think that's the name), who had some involvement with the SLA when the remaining ones, including Stockholm Syndrome Patty, were in hiding. There was an ongoing rumor that she and some other comrades were hiding out for some days in Bill's NW house. Seemed credible enough at the time, he'd been busted for some VN demonstration, and about half of the residents of the NW part of time had smoked dope with him.
I rather liked the idea of our NBA hero fighting for The Revolution after practice.
All part of Portland, circa 70's.
'town', not 'time'. Ravages of age and all that….
Dave and I have been trying to remember. All we can come up with is Bill Walton is the greatest post-up player of all time. Okay, that was Dave. You sure could count on seeing the big man around town. On his bike. And at Saturday Market. Things is diff'rent now.
And the fast outlet pass after a rebound. He'd turn mid-air and launch one to Davie Twardzik going down court.
This was a very grin-inducing post, Murr. I particularly liked your descriptions of how various musicians fit (or didn't) their uniforms, and the piccolos being outgunned. We don't have marching bands up here or if we do, we keep 'em well hidden. We have a slightly tipsy St. Patrick's day parade with lots of donnybrooks after, and a desultory Santa Claus parade, with floats of frozen little hockey players crying at the halfway point because they have to go to the bathroom, but that's about it.
I envy you the Budweiser Clydesdales. All of this is how I envision the U.S.A., but it's probably a Norman Rockwell induced hallucination.
I'm not much of a horse person. Every time I've bobbed around on top of one, I've thought, this is insane. But there are a lot of cool horses in this parade, giant black horses with huge manes and fluffy feet, and of course the Budweiser guys–the best thing about that particular "beer." Oh, and they had a Dalmatian riding up top, too.
Back in the fifties we had the Redmond Oregon Spud Festival. (potatoes were a major cash crop back then. Now they harvest tourists) You knew everyone in the parade and everyone waved at one another with enthusiasm. Kids decorated their bikes with crepe paper streamers. The volunteer fire department showed off the truck. The square-dance club sat back to back on folding chairs on an old flatbed ford, and the caller leaned out the front window and waved at everyone. The neighboring counties sent their rodeo queens and princesses. Anyone with an antique car or motorcycle or horse and buggy brought it out. I'm sure there were times when there were more people in the parade than on the street, watching.
The Junior Rose Parade used to have a lot of kids who'd decorated their bikes themselves, and stuff like that, but now it's a little more organized and features WAY more girl children in princess outfits and makeup. Bleah.