I love a parade

Published 3:06 pm Friday, December 3, 2010

Editor’s note: Comedienne Pam Stone writes her column for The Tryon Daily Bulletin twice each month from her office at her home in Gowensville. Want a chance to respond to this column? Go to Pam’s blog at www.tryondailybulletin.com.
The very afternoon I arrived in my new home of West Hollywood, California, having driven cross-country from Georgia, just happened to be ‘Gay Pride Day.”
Climbing out of my car to investigate the reason behind the swelling crowds, this southern girl from a conservative suburb came face to face with the most outrageous floats imaginable and a darned good transgender cheerleading squad.
“They’re great!” I enthused to the older man standing beside me, an Ed Asner look-alike dressed as Carmen Miranda.
“If you like that sort of thing,” he commented dryly.
Allrighty, then.
Halloween was equally entertaining, but Christmas, now Christmas, that was something else.
Suddenly the city embraced traditional themes of holly and snow, Christmas trees and Santa, all gliding, with dazzling panache, down Hollywood Boulevard. With my friends, I shimmied up a lamp post just high enough to see the grand marshall, Jimmy Stewart, wheeling past in the back of a convertible. There he was, Mr. “It’s a Wonderful Life!” himself, silver haired and bundled up, waving and smiling with genuine warmth. (A few years later I met this legend and had the most charming exchange with him, but we’ll keep that for another time. Suffice it to say he was every bit the kindly gentleman you hoped he would be).
Living now in the Carolinas, this is the time of year where each and every small town decks out its streets and shops and prepares for its own hometown parade.
Having been to a few in the area, I’m always amused to note that many contain the exact same entrants: the ‘Hillbilly Jalopies” – Model T Fords converted into redneck roadsters and bedecked with lights, antlers and “AaaWOOhaaa!” horns, local church childrens’ choirs and, most interestingly, every fire engine from a 20-mile radius. What the folks in Holly Springs do when their truck is trundling through Landrum and vice-versa, during an emergency, is beyond me. All I know is that I’ve learned to install cotton balls in both my and the terriers’ ears when all the sirens begin to blast at the same time to herald the final float carrying Santa.
In our local parade ReMax Realty brings its illuminated hot air balloon each year pulled behind a pickup and, every now and then, punctuates the air with a burst of helium and flame, resulting in a smattering of applause and an “Oooooh, ahhhh!” from the crowds.
The local high school’s ROTC unit marches past with firm chins and squared shoulders, followed by homecoming queens and countless child beauty pageant winners, their titles hastily etched with Sharpies against the poster boards taped to car doors: “Little Miss Pea Ridge” or “Little Miss Canned Peaches” – all shivering beneath their banners and gamely trying to smile as the novelty of riding in a parade quickly eroded after the first block.
The marching band cranks out the theme to “Hawaii 5-0” and a local gymnastics school showcases its students tumbling along behind.
There are always a few riders on horseback as well and I admire the placid temperaments of these animals, knowing my own equines, safely home and tucked in for the night, would be turning cartwheels and telephoning DSS if I ever exposed them to such lights and noise.
What each parade has in common is the kindling of spirit and goodwill among neighbors, the gentle reminder to patronize local shops and the frantic scrambling to collect the cracked candy canes and stale Tootsie Rolls that have gathered along the curb.
While the Grand Marshalls may not be movie stars or the streets adorned with Hollywood special effects, our hometown parades have just as much enthusiasm, not to mention pride.
And enough firefighters to quench Mount Vesuvius.

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