The 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.
On both sides of the event.