Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

next week's column: Being Marshal is Grand

Happy bithday, [info - personal]fenchurche!

It's been an eventful few days. On Monday we attended my Aunt Edna's funeral, and later in the day I finally got the full manuscript of Coming Attractions into the mail to Avalon. Emily and I spent all day Tuesday at an amusement park about a two hour drive way, called Indiana Beach -- it rained on us all day, but once we got wet enough we simply headed to their water park area. Wednesday we went to the Mermaid Festival in North Webster to watch Jillian sing in an entertainment event. On Thursday I went to the season's final Relay For Life meeting, where I was presented with a very nice certificate of appreciation for my work doing public information for the event. Right now -- thunderstorm warning.

Then, of course, there was Saturday, when I was one of the Grand Marshals for the Chain O' Lakes Festival parade. Naturally I had to write a column about it; here are some pictures too, but I posted more photos, taken from the grandstand, on my photobucket account at


It turns out being a parade grand marshal is kinda neat.

There was a vague plan of it happening for me someday. It went like this: After years on the best-seller list (I mean constantly – as soon as one novel got below #10, my newest one would instantly appear in the top spot), I would come back from my winter home in Hawaii to discover the people of Albion, to whom I’ve donated a swimming pool, a new fire truck, and 14,000 pounds of chocolate, have named me Citizen of the Year for the fifth straight year. This time I’ve also been made grand marshal of the Chain O’ Lakes Festival parade, which will be led by the very same fire truck I donated, and the event will be covered by the anchors of CNN and Fox as soon as they stop fist fighting in the parking lot.

The reality was just a bit different.

The Albion Chamber of Commerce made the Town of Albion their Business of the Year and, as all five of my regular readers know, I’m a member of the Town Council. In connection with that, the committee put together to take care of the Courthouse Square improvement project was made Grand Marshal of this year’s parade.

This is all good. Too often the only time a small community’s government gets recognized is when someone shows up at a regular meeting to complain about it. However, I wasn’t an active member of that particular committee; my involvement with the project usually amounted to casting a few votes and writing an article or two. I only show up at the Municipal Building every other Tuesday, plus when they pass out the pizza on casual Fridays.

Still, who am I to pass up a chance to not only ride in the parade, but to then get a pretty good seat from which to watch the rest of it go by? Chain O’ Lakes Festivals, Turtle Days, Three Rivers Festivals – that’s where you see real Americana these days, not in Washington. Probably not on a beach in Hawaii, either, but I’m anxious to get over there and check for myself.

I didn’t realize when I signed up for the gig that it made me a judge, too.

Frankly, I was counting on the position getting me out of working that day. Still, there were many committee members, and their significant others were also invited to share the stage, so we had plenty of people to pass out the judging duties to. My significant other, as it happens, has a passion for horses, so she got to be a horse judge. I have some knowledge of fire trucks, so I became a fire truck judge. I wouldn’t call it a passion, exactly … although seeing one go by with lights and siren on does make me jump up and down and squeal.

We were seated in the back of a pickup truck right behind the Freedom Riders. Seeing as how the majority of the Council was on the truck, I think it qualified as a meeting. Just in case, we called ourselves into session and voted the parade unanimously “cool”, but split on the issue of free donuts for all Council meetings. The sprinkles vs. non-sprinkles wings just wouldn’t budge.

Frankly, I was a little uncomfortable during the ride, despite having practiced my parade wave beforehand. I’ve been in lots of parades, but always walking with the fire department, in uniform. You’re supposed to stare straight ahead and pretend you’re marching in step.

Waving back at kids was easy; kids will wave at anything in a parade. “Look, the horse is going to the bathroom! Wave at it!”

But when adults wave at you in a parade, it’s just like being waved at anywhere. Are they waving at me? Do I know them? Or are they waving to the guy next to me? If they aren’t waving at me and I wave back I’ll look like an idiot, but if they are, and I don’t wave back, we’re talking major social angst and maybe losing a vote in my next run for President …

I settled for giving big, general waves, so whoever was waving back might think I was actually waving at someone behind them.

Then there were all those people taking pictures of us. Why? We’re all middle aged small town officials. Who would possibly want those pictures? By the way, for anyone who was taking them, could I have a copy?

Once we got to the stage, the rest of the parade passed us by. You’d think judging fire trucks would be difficult: “Gee, that one’s – red. Just like the last one.” But no, Mitch Fiandt and I were the judges there, and as professional firefighters we knew just what to look for: “Wow! That one’s so much shinier than the others! Find out what wax they use.”

In the end all went well. Nobody saw me tear up during the playing of “Taps”, the rain stopped just in time, and we went home happy, with a funnel cake and cotton candy. I confess to feeling a bit humbled, as if I was being honored just for being there and participating, which so many other caring people do. Still, not so humbled that I wouldn’t do it again, maybe after the Pulitzer Prize Patrol comes to my door.

I’d come back from Hawaii for that.

It's just not a parade without a marching band.
Central Noble Marching Band

I don't know if it was coincidence or planned, but it seemed every other entry was Wizard of Oz themed, which did this old Oz fan's heart good. Here is a not-quite properly colored Dorothy, with Toto and a witch who apparently ran out of green makeup.
Dorothy and Toto

Locally restored by a collector, this half-track saw action in Vietnam, then went on be be filmed in several movies and TV shows.

A local radio station's van (you can see the whole thing on my photobucket page). That's my brother-in-law driving, and my nephew poking his head out.
Brother in law and Nephew

Dorothy, Munchkins and an oddly feminine Tin Woodman do a dance for the Grand marshal stage! They're part of a group called Inclognito.
InClogNito dance to "Munchkinland"

This rig's been in the parade for as long as I can remember; I assume they aren't the same horses.
horse drawn wagon
Tags: albion, column, new era, slightly off the mark
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