Having viewed the Mount Airy Christmas parade for the first time on Saturday, it occurred to me I hadn’t seen a Christmas parade in at least ten years. The Elkin-Jonesville parade used to end at the school across the street from my house, so we just opened the blinds in the living room and watched from the comfort of the sofa.
But not having to brave the cold and the weather stripped some of the magic from the experience. I suppose it’s no fun if you don’t work for it, but I lost interest after a couple of years and stopped watching parades. And also, the parades these days didn’t seem to have the sparkle and spectacle of the parades of my youth.
In my memory, parade floats were these magical conveyances that appeared but once a year, completely covered in little circles of crepe paper, with long, sparkly fringe skirting the bottom, hiding the tires and making it appear as if the float was literally floating past. They were fascinating in their glamorous uselessness, looking like ginormous floating piñatas ambling down the street. And riding way up high at the top of those piñatas was usually a beauty queen of some kind or other, with a bevy of ladies-in-waiting fanned out beneath her on the lower decks, all of them wearing evening gowns and leaning against strange little metal poles with curved backrests. It was a strange and wonderful sight.
Other local beauties of note, those without an entourage of attending beauties, rode alone sitting on the back of a convertible, also giving queenly waves to their adoring fans lining the streets. When it was cold, these beauties, along with their float-bound compadres, donned fur coats to wear with their tiaras. Glamorous stuff for a small town.
Granted, times have changed, there aren’t as many beauty queens these days — and of course, that’s a good thing — but why do they still have those crazy doll stands on the floats to hold up the non-existent beauty queens? It’s not like the cub scouts sprawled all over the floats are making use of them. I doubt they even know what they’re for.
And if modern parades can’t compete with the misty, watercolor memories of my youth, I will say the Mount Airy parade more than makes up for it in quantity. By the time Santa made it to Main Street two hours and ten minutes after the parade started, the little girl standing beside me had just about come undone with the sweet agony of anticipation.
“Is he here yet? Can you see him” How about now? Is he here yet?” It was an instant flashback to having a child in the house, and also to being a child myself, mad with anticipation for Santa to visit.
And while that little girl was sweating it out for Santa to appear, and I was hoping he’d show up so I could take his picture, a few other thoughts came to mind as the parade passed by. And continued to pass by.
What would happen if there was a fire somewhere in the region? It would seem that every single fire truck in the county plus one or two from Cana were all meandering through town flashing lights and throwing candy to kids. All the side streets were blocked, complicating any emergency exit strategy. I assume there was a plan.
And where do all the flatbed trucks come from? Even considering the enormous number of utility trailers tarted up for the occasion, there was an inordinate number of flatbed trucks. I’ve never seen so many in one place before. There were more flatbed trucks than there were people to ride on them. One truck just wandered by, undecorated, unoccupied and unexplained. A real Christmas mystery.
And as far as the political candidates, politicking and campaigning, that felt a little weird. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say, I thought it was kind of tawdry. Off-message, if you will. Not why we were there. At all. But maybe that’s just me. It’s not as if the extra candy generated by them was crucial.
And what is with the candy anyway? When did that custom begin? And why? No one I’ve asked has been able to tell me. And what exactly is the etiquette involved?
Should one only pick up candy that lands in one’s immediate area? Is it appropriate to scoop up premium pieces away from someone closer to it? Is it appropriate to do that when one is an adult and the one being scooped from is a child?
I’m only asking because I saw it happen. And I will definitely say it was not appropriate because the little girl from whom the candy was snatched, cried.
And yet the person who literally stole candy from a baby did it again. And again. So I ask the question about the appropriateness of stealing candy from babies not because I don’t know if there is ever a time that it’s OK because I know there is not, but because others are clearly uninformed on the matter.
And it’s not like there wasn’t enough candy to go around. By the end of the parade, people were throwing it back. Their bags and pockets were full, and they were hurling candy back at the people riding by. It was kind of surreal, really. Or maybe that’s a normal way to behave if your blood sugar is spiking, and you are sick and tired of waiting for Santa.
The only thing nuttier than folks throwing candy back at the people in the parade was the people in the parade recording it on cell phone videos. Yep, all through the parade, people in the parade who were intended to be the spectacle were videotaping the spectators who had come to see them, many of whom were videotaping them right back.
More than anything else, that endless loop of postmodern video and photography was what most separated last week’s parade from the parades of my memories.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.