The day was bright and hot. Hundreds of people lined Main Street with lawn chairs. Children sat on the curb. The Lion's Club sold hot dogs. Toddlers walked in and out of the blocked off road.
After a mile of paper plates, wagons, and coolers we finally found our friends and sat down. They all wore Aussie hats (oops, only my younger two were hatted) and had water bottles (ditto). They also had two helpful little signs set up which read 'NO CANDY PLEASE.'
We had talked about this ahead of time. My youngest son has Epilepsy and is on the Ketogenic Diet. No sugar. They are vegetarians who prefer to limit candy to certain times and occasions.
Before the whole thing started someone came along and offered to sell us an orange square to help the Library. If we put it in the street and if a horse poops on it we win a prize. We bought 4. I don't think you can pay enough for that kind of anticipation.
Within 15 minutes of setting down our squares were were deep into an old-fashioned small town parade. The kind that starts off with a police car riding silently down the street and is quickly followed by Belgian horses pulling a wagon with the bank's name emblazoned on it, firetrucks, 4-H floats, half a dozen Mustangs, the Boy Scouts, tractors, the Girl Scouts, firetrucks, a high school band peppy but slightly off-key, 4 guys playing in the back of a pickup who usually sing down at the bar on Saturday nights, Miss Dairybest the fairest of the Fair, clowns, veterans, the American flag, the local state representative, and assorted people riding horses or ponies.
This is how I remember parades as a kid. The bands, the horses, the emergency vehicles. What I don't remember is the candy! Sure, I remember the Lion's guys were passing out candy, and sometimes the 4-H did too. Occasionally there would be a coupon for a free small cone from the local gas station or Tastee Freeze. If you were lucky you got 3-4 pieces. Tootsie rolls and Dum Dums. If the kids next to you were faster you got none.
Holy Corn Syrup, Batman, it's like Halloween out there! We had a sign. I can't tell you the number of people who threw candy to my 3 year old son. We made big NO gestures. They still threw candy. A few people apologized for throwing after they noticed the signs we were waving. Most just walked away.
Somewhere there is probably a 3 year old who doesn't want to run and pick up candy. I don't know him, but there is probably one somewhere. We've only been on the Ketogenic Diet 2 weeks and he's still in denial. We've been limiting sweets since Easter. He still remembers. Meanwhile his brothers are not allowed candy in front of him. They have to run out and throw the candy to the kids on the right or the left before he can get out of his stroller. Heartbreak on all sides.
Hundreds of pieces of candy (and no poop prizes) later, the mayor rides down the street in a convertible with all the regular people who forgot there was a parade going on right behind. The only rush hour of the year. Then we pack up our chairs and hug our friends goodbye.
The street is crowded on both sides. We pass Miss Dairybest on the way back. She's walking without her shoes but she still has her crown on. She's eating something. I think a brat. Across from the bar some kids are sitting in the back of a truck. Their heads are shaved and their skins are brown. Their dad sits on the tailgate with a top hat that's shaped like a beer mug.
I swear we are parked 2 miles away and it must be 90 degrees Fahrenheit. My husband stops for hot dogs now that we've left the vegetarians. I tell myself I will be much more prepared next year. I'll remember to bring sunscreen and gallons of water. I'll remember to bring myself a hat. I'll make my husband park closer and get there earlier.
Still, it was a wonderful time. The only thing that could make it better would be watermelon. Yum, watermelon.