Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

next week's column: Keeping in Step With Small Town Parades


I’ve been allowed to march in the Chain O’ Lakes Festival parade for the last few years, after being voted Person Most Likely to Mention Albion in a Memoir. People wanted to be nice to me, just in case.

No, just kidding – The other guys on the fire department felt more comfortable with me marching as a firefighter, instead of driving a truck. Something about innocent bystanders.

This year I sat it out, partially because my oldest daughter is pregnant with twins and I was afraid someone would start yelling my name over a loudspeaker while I was on the parade route. I kept picturing some scene out of a movie, with me hijacking a horse and galloping through the marching band, and in real life those things never end well.

So I sat on the grass with my youngest daughter, on a day when the weather was so perfect that the meteorologists were scratching their heads, wondering what to talk about. (They chose someone else’s weather, of course.)

(That's my youngest in green, watching the antique fire truck go by)
antique pumper

People left their TV’s and computers. They hauled out lawn chairs, sat on porches, or perched on the curb, while the police shut down the state highway. We already knew what was coming: Emergency vehicles, marching bands, floats, and horses, mostly in that order. It’s a good idea for the horses to come after the marching band.

But there was still that sense of anticipation. Little kids had fun, older people wore smiles, and families were actually together doing something that didn’t involve a screen. It was … weird.

Although I was around the corner from the viewing stand, where the announcer, grand marshals, and other such luminaries sat, it was pretty easy to tell what was happening next. The police cars in the lead stopped and their drivers got out, standing at attention. In the crowd, you could tell the ex-military people by how quickly they climbed to their feet, no matter what the age. Some of us even remembered to put our hands over our hearts.

You don’t start a small town parade without the posting of the colors, and the National Anthem.

With that came the American Legion Riders, one of the most patriotic and service oriented organizations in the nation. If you have an emergency you call the fire department; if the fire department needs support, they go to the Legion.

I hope I got the name of the group right, because there were about five million of them on those motorcycles. It was like the white knight version of the Hell’s Angels.

In some ways parades have changed since I was a kid. There used to be more floats,
for instance, but it takes time and effort to design and decorate floats. The people who do that are usually the ones who volunteer their services in so many other ways, so sooner or later they have to let something drop. I miss floats, but since I’ve never decorated one I don’t have much right to complain.

I also miss the Shriners, who used to race little mini-cars in circles around the entire parade route. In a sign of the times, they’ve been replaced by the helmeted pilots of all terrain vehicles, which have about the same turn radius, anyway.

Thank goodness we didn’t have ATV’s when I was a kid; I can only imagine how much damage I’d have done.

Not long after that came fire trucks – lots and lots of fire trucks, from lots of different places. Nowhere else in a parade are other communities better represented. The first out the gate was Albion’s 1929 pumper, bedecked with flags, ridden by Sparky the fire dog, and piloted by Phil Jacob, the closest thing the AFD has to an antique firefighter.

1929 fire truck

That really isn’t so funny anymore, considering I’m pretty high on the seniority list, myself.

There were the Vietnam vets, but also Korean War veterans, marching – marching! These are guys who fought in the frigid cold of Korea over fifty years ago, now shouldering arms for the parade route. I’ll be in one of those electric scooters when I’m that age.


You can’t have a parade without a marching band, of course, and we had two. I’ll never understand how anyone can march and play at the same time. I can’t stay in step even when I’m concentrating on staying in step.

There were bunches and bunches of royalty. The Chain O’ Lakes queen, naturally, but also the Kiddie King and Queen, the Onion Days Queen, the Marshmallow Days Queen, and three or four others representing various substances. I thought the Edible Underwear Queen was a bit tacky, but who am I to say?

Marshmallow Queen

We had our share of antique cars, and horses of varying sizes, and naturally we had the Pooper Scooper gang right behind the horses, which seemed the logical location. There were tractors – it wouldn’t be an Indiana parade without tractors. There were, naturally, Boy and Girl Scouts.


There was the garbage truck. I know, I know – but it was cleaned and polished up, and is that really any stranger than a tractor? The way I see it, it was a big honkin’ truck, and there were lots of kids along the route who love big honkin’ trucks. Besides, my trash guy was driving it. I think he made some pick-ups along the way.

Noble County Disposal

Because it’s an election year (when isn’t it?) there were mini parades within the parade: One of Republicans, one of Democrats.

I didn’t see any booing or unpleasantness going on with the parties; just congenial hand shaking and giving out of trinkets. Here’s what I found interesting, though: The Republicans gave us some stickers and some candy. The Democrats gave us a bottle of water (with a candidate’s name on it).

Obviously the water was more practical. But it tasted horrible. Yet we drank it anyway.

Whether that’s a metaphor for something or just a case of thirst, I can’t say; but both sides were definitely on the march.



More parade and festival photos can be found at:
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark

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