Big Parades, Missing This Year, Always Make Me Cry


It was going strong for more than 35 years, then the Wellington Holiday Parade fell victim to the virus pandemic, just like so many other fun traditions. It’s OK. It saves me a good cry.

I always cry at parades, and I don’t know if I’m alone on that. It’s such a big event for so many people.

The spectators enjoy the pageantry of it.

The participants enjoy the opportunity of it.

And everyone enjoys the tradition of it. For many, it signals the true start of the holiday season.

When I’m watching a parade, I like to hone-in on one or two faces in every group. I l-o-v-e watching the high school drummers, for instance. Not only are they thumping away like mad, often with real showmanship, but they have to heft these gigantic bass drums around. Or some teenager will have a set of four snare drums hanging off his neck. The faces of those kids say a lot. They know the whole band is relying on the precision of their work.

Then there are the twirlers. I try to be fair here, and take a glimpse at everyone, but who can resist the tiniest of those baton twirlers? Barely out of diapers, they are now expected to walk for a mile or so in a scratchy tutu, not only carrying a baton, but twirling it. Most of them can only make it about a block. That’s why twirler moms are often pulling wagons — and the wagons aren’t empty for long.

Some parades ban commercial floats, but I like them. Any company willing to spend the time and money necessary to convert a regular old truck into something that captivates children has my vote and, often, my business. Their hearts are in the right place. And for floats created by kids themselves — yippee! Good job! I love what you did!

As for the scouts, the Sunday school groups, the bike-riders — it seems like there are more of you every year, and to that, I say, “Great! Bring it! Entertain us! I’m happy you cared enough to get off the couch. You’re making memories for both of us.”

Speaking of memories, when I was in my high school band, we always marched down Wisconsin Avenue in the Christmas parade. One year, during “parade rest,” the heel of my shoe wedged itself down into the viaduct over the Milwaukee River, but I didn’t know it.

When the drum major blew his whistle three times, it was time to step off, but my shoe wasn’t going anywhere. A normal kid would’ve bent down and jerked it loose, but my dad was a Marine (Semper fi!), and I knew that one did not mess up the whole regiment with one’s petty problems.

So, I stepped out of the shoe (it was only about 22 degrees out) and stayed in formation, marching down the street in one shoe, one sock. I figured I’d go back after the parade and maybe it would still be there. If not, well, it was a small price to pay for uniformity.

By the next parade rest, my sock was a cold, wet and a filthy mess. Nonetheless, I was happy to stuff it back into my shoe when some kind stranger broke in and handed it to me. Looking straight ahead, I muttered, “Thank you,” assuming that the stranger was probably another former Marine. When our band passed by him, he probably saw the errant shoe, and it wasn’t exactly difficult to figure out to whom it belonged.

Problem solved, and I did not lose a toe to frostbite during Sousa’s “Washington Post March” after all.

Parades are full of fun memories like that — for everybody! So, yet another thing I am looking forward to in 2021 are the parades. I plan to go to every single one.