e333388045The Milan Melon Festival has celebrated local cantaloupe and watermelon harvests for sixty years. During three days, food trucks fill the town square, and carnival rides pack the streets. Events jam the daily schedule:

Kiddie Tractor Pull. 5K Melon Run. Firefighter’s Chicken BBQ. Antique Car Show. Beautiful Baby Contest….

And the annual scooping of who-knows-how-many gallons of World Famous Watermelon Sherbet.

But for me, the Sunday afternoon Grand Parade is the highlight. It’s not a dazzling. It does not equal the Rose Bowl or Macy’s Thanksgiving  Parades.

It’s better.  In a small-town kind of way.

This year it rained. So Cliff and I arrived at our camp chairs, staked in a prime spot early that morning, filled with several inches of water. We emptied the seats and settled in beneath our umbrellas to wave at local fire engines and police cars, sirens blaring, marching bands, royal courts from county fairs, and drum and baton lines.









You might have been expecting something more picture worthy. But I love every tilted tiara, dropped baton, and crooked marching line. That’s the whole point. Those are our people, marching for all they’re worth. We’re clapping and waving our hearts out for them.

You probably see drenched paper and dripping hair. Not me.

I see a teenaged boy pressed into umbrella service to protect the queen, who dutifully smiles and waves, fulfilling her noble role.

I see those two little boys who couldn’t get over the joy of grabbing candy from passing floats and politicians. They tried their best to say “Thank you,”  but the candy often came so fast and abundantly that it was hard to keep pace. Sometimes we clapped for the boys as much as for the parade participants.

It takes a quick soldier to save candy from puddles.

No app exists for that task. In fact, no one in or beside the parade was scrolling through their phones. We were all living the moment, focused on each other, not Facebook.

Many years ago I was a small-town Christmas parade participant. I marched for a women’s shelter that served victims of domestic abuse. We each created head gear to celebrate the season. I wove white branches, bedecked with silver bells, white doves, and streaming ribbons, through a pink knit cap. I carried a poster that spelled out HOPE in swirls.

It was a chilly, windy December day, with block after block of bundled bystanders cheering us on. Many participants dropped out, which seemed like the best idea ever, until up ahead a mother lifted her daughter and shouted, “Look, honey! Here comes HOPE!”

She clapped joyfully as her mother jumped up and down, both of them calling,” Go, HOPE! We love you!”

I kept going.

And after all, I was HOPE.

That’s the great thing about a parade. Everyone becomes something more.

Something real.

On both sides of  the event.



9 thoughts on “Parade, Unplugged

  1. Karen, this is charming. And so good to include the pictures (was Maggie part of that?) so we could SEE the royal court under their umbrellas and the candy scavenger little boys.
    I think you must have always loved hometown parades, since you were the one who designed the giant purple paper mache dinosaur (??) for our high school homecoming parade. We spent hours slathering wet newspaper over that frame.


    1. Without my staff photographer, I had to take the pictures myself. Only you could remember that high school homecoming float. Night after night, after everyone left, you and I worked late into the night–delirious on wheat paste fumes.


  2. I don’t remember the purple dinosaur, I only remember Bubblegum Bob!
    Small town parades are the best. We always enjoyed ours in Truckee California on the 4th of July. Over the last 30 years our little town went from an interesting historical stop for the tourists at Lake Tahoe to an over the top high priced playground for the rich and famous, but our parade has never changed from its local citizens local businesses roots.


    1. Thanks for taking time to comment. The theme of the Homecoming Speech and Theater Dept. float was “Middie Magic Will Slay the Knights.” The public library let us borrow their suit of armor. It was an ambitious project. When we did not win anything, Jim Butch protested. The judges hemmed and hawed, finally saying that our dragon looked too friendly. He dug deeper and discovered that 2 of the judges were parents of winning floats. So there you go.
      On another note, I’m glad celebrity status has not bedazzled your July 4th parade. I certainly understand how communities change. We planned to move to Taos, a sleepy little town 40 years ago. Then the Hollywood crowd moved in, sending real estate prices soaring.


  3. I didn’t realize parades like this one were still happening, in 2019. I thought they’d gone the way of general stores and public phone booths. Although you didn’t wind up in Willoughby (the fantasy version, I mean), you seem to have found the ideal, modern day equivalent.


    1. Indeed we have. We certainly don’t need all the tomatoes grown by Cliff. So he bags them up, climbs on his bike, and delivers them to neighbors’ back porches. In return, several of them shovel our sidewalk and driveway when it snows. Downright friendly out here in Fly-Over Country.


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