Where I live the Christmas parade is fifty-nine years old. I remember my parents taking me and my siblings to watch the annual event when we were small. Always held on the first Saturday in December, the parade has continued, like the post office—through rain, snow, sleet, or ice.
Last year we stood under dripping umbrellas, shoe-deep in puddles along the street. This year the sun came out and though we were dry, the temperatures hovered in the low thirties. Shiver weather.
The hometown parade is an enigma—an eclectic group of entrants–nothing like those Hollywood versions you see on television.
You like horses? From the mounted sheriff’s posse that leads the procession down the street to the summer rodeo queen and her court, we have four-legged mounts that would make anyone proud. We watched the 4-H group and the drill team prance by, decked out in holiday finery. Of course, in this colder climate, most of the animals are dressed in shaggy fur beneath their saddles. You won’t see that in Hollywood.
No horse group would be complete without their barn boys. You know the ones, the guys following the horses down the street. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen them on television. I guess horses don’t poop in Pasadena, but here the four-legged critters lift their tails and slam dunk the asphalt without a blush. In the cold the steam, well, rises. The barn guys behind them skillfully lift the hot muffins and deposit them in a rolling conveyance.
Those conveyances are another attraction in themselves. This year the first one was a dune buggy pulling a wagon—except the dune buggy wouldn’t start and the barn boys were pushing it down the street. I wondered how they’d fare by the end of the three mile journey. Another variety was an all-terrain vehicle pulling the necessary. A third waste catcher was a tiny tractor chugging behind the waving tails. But the one that got my vote was the guy with the wheelbarrow—two handlebars, a tire and a flat-bottomed shovel. No horse muffin would defy him—he had it covered.
What’s a hometown parade without the local high school bands? We had two, their drill teams proudly leading the instrumentalists along the parade route. A marching band is hard to listen to when you stand on the side of the street. As each section passes by you get their part of the melody so a tune like Santa Claus is Coming to Town is portioned out between the flutes and the tubas, like a tweeter and a woofer spaced around a gymnasium. But they sound good coming toward you and as they march away.
I would be remiss not to mention the Christmas floats, for they represent the heart of the season-— from carolers on a wagon to children dressed as shepherds, angels, Joseph and Mary. This year’s theme, Through the Eyes of a Child, seemed fitting since Christmas came through a baby. Luke 2:7 “And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Imagine placing the eternal fate of the world on a tiny baby. God knew what He was doing.
I mustn’t forget the fire departments in the parade. Every volunteer agency showed up with their trucks—horns, bells, and whistles all primed to blow out your ear drums. You hope there’s no emergency while these guys drive down the street.
Not to be outdone, the garbage service rolled by as well—red and green decorations to camouflage the obvious . My husband hoped they’d hosed out the truck before the riders climbed aboard, tossing stocking caps to their audience.
But my favorite entry was the Camp Creek Tractor Club. Yessiree, here they came, one by one, tractors from as far back as the 1920’s. All were washed and polished in reds, oranges, and greens, chugging down the street. Big tires, little tires and backfires. Their drivers were a diverse group—from the kid who looked to be about eight in his oversized Stetson, proving to the policemen patrolling the parade he could drive without a license, to the weathered farmer in his coveralls and beat-up straw sucking on a Tootsie Pop. And every age in between. I lost count at fifteen tractors, but I know there had to be at least two dozen of them.
Last, but not least, were the University of Oregon cheerleaders. My town sits near the school and everyone here applauds the Ducks in their first ever Pac-12 championship. Which means a lot of us hometown parade people will be heading to Pasadena January 2. We might even take in their parade!
But don’t worry, we’ll bring our own shovels.