Whether it is a circus extravaganza, with lots of elephants and an out-of-key calliope, or a homemade one with no bands, you'll always find me curbside cheering them on.
I especially recall the Hobo Day parades of my college days. Students stayed up all night preparing their floats to beguile the thousands of people who lined the Brookings streets to view the spectacle.
The pharmics always won the "most beautiful" entry in my time – the rest of us sore losers said it was because they had a class in decorating store windows so they know what to do with all of that cellophane and colored paper.
That was before kids started building those gawd-awful monstrosities with bath tubs, outhouses and every conceivable piece of junk, pulled by an old clunker which (sadly enough) added to global warming with its sputtering engine.
But I watched them just the same!
I can remember when University students had a street-cleaner with scoop and broom following our band – and we vowed to get even with nightly raids on the Vermilion campus. But I don't know if we did.
Parades need more bands. Summertime festivities – when school is out – create a big problem. High school musicians – except in a few cases – have not shown up yet, so the smaller institutions aren't represented.
That's why homecoming parades are so fortunate. Who cares if a trombone player is out of step? Or the uniforms don't fit? The band is there, playing a Sousa march (albeit badly), and the instructor is marching proudly with them.
I think candy manufacturers are the happiest because every unit has a bevy of dispensers who give out treats to kids waiting curbside with plastic bags open. They didn't come to see the parade; they came for loot!
This could add to the nation's obesity, I thought (as I stooped to claim a Tootsie Roll before a tiny tyke got it). A smart-thinking hospital group handed out a small box of raisins, instead of candy, at one parade I saw recently. That could start a trend.
Politicians love the events. They come on tractors, in antique autos or on foot, always looking for votes.
And speaking of old cars, the vintage vehicle drivers are ever ready to show off their antiquated Model Ts, Chevies and an occasional Brush which they have polished and scrubbed for the chance to expose them to the crowd.
I always wait to see what the El Riad Shriners of Sioux Falls have to offer in every parade I've seen in South Dakota. They seem to have lots of fun – but I think putting on all that clown makeup would get awfully tiresome.
I can agree with folks who argue that strictly commercial units and big equipment entries are overdone in most parades. But the kids like them; and the sound of a siren on a fire truck is something we oldsters can put up with. At least it means the truck and the firefighters are not out battling a blaze some place.
Probably it's a burst of patriotism on my part, but when The Star-Spangled Banner goes by, I feel like I'm a teenager again and I'm ready to enlist.
Finally the horses appear (I wonder why they always put them last?) and the show is over. But there will be another, some place, some time! And I'll be there.
© 2006 Robert F. Karolevitz