Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Love A Parade!

A Slice of American Pie

OK lets start with a rhetorical question? What could possibly be more American than a parade?

We love parades. Whether large, medium, or small parades occupy a special place in the American psyche. I sort of think our reverence for parades is a souvenir of a time when conquering heroes, returning GI's, and astronauts, would be celebrated in parades with streams of ticker tape. Parades were our way of saying "WOW!!!!" 

Of course when we think "parade" we normally think of the two mega-parades: the splendid Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena and Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Nobody matches those two.

The Tournament of Roses Parade has been an American institution since 1890 and is clearly Southern California's way of razzing the wintry denizens of all cold places. The annual trip down Colorado Boulevard now averages over 1,000,000 spectators a year.

The Rose Parade always has always been special for me because my mom loved it so much. Also because a friend's family raised many of the begonia blossoms used in its floats each year. Sadly, this year their farms near Santa Cruz closed permanently due to a fire after more than 80 years in business.

A relative newcomer, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is just 84 years old. In 1927 it became famous for including giant helium filled balloons which where released in a grand finale. As they drifted off they would burst falling all over Manhattan and creating a bit of a PR mess for parade organizers. So in 1928 the balloons were improved, designed for reuse, yet equipped with return labels (informing the finder of a reward for their return.)

Today Macy's floats are built by Manfred Bass in an old Tootsie Roll factory in Hoboken where each float is designed so that it can collapse to pass through the Holland Tunnel for parade day.

Before I pass from this realm I intend to go see each of those parades in person!

On a more local level there are literally hundreds of parades that are more intimate. Veterans Day, Columbus Day, St. Patrick's day, and the Fourth of July just would not be complete without a parade! These are the parades most of us enjoy and maybe even participate in year after year.

"My Parade" is the annual Fiesta Bowl Parade in central Phoenix. Since moving to Phoenix 16 years ago I have enjoyed this parade almost every year. Of course I'm spoiled since I live close by and can walk to it. 

Now almost 40 years old, it is Arizona's largest single-day event attracting nearly 200,000 spectators. Rated as one of America's top 6 parades by USA Today, it is now presented by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. 

A neighborhood tradition for residents of North Central is to put the kids in PJ's, hoist them to your shoulder and walk to Central and Bethany Home Road around 10 PM the night before the parade. There you can watch the staging of the floats and see them adding all the finishing touches. 

The parade route has had to change to accommodate our marvelous new light rail. So it now starts on Central then makes a jog over to 7th Street.

The reason I like this parade so much is because it features so many great high school bands. You can just see how delighted the kids are to get a chance to travel to Arizona in January. It also has a sense of humor. 

Lots of Floats

The Geeks

The Balloons 
(Being Spinned)

The Clydesdales

Expect more than the magnificent Clydesdales. There will likely be the last remaining WWII Navajo Code Talkers, some geeks in Star Wars and Ghostbuster's outfits, Shriners in little cars, even some stilt walkers. Silly string is used in profusion. And, of course, there will be the Sun City Poms (use your imagination...) and the Wild Women of the West on horseback!

Each year we also get to see what new item of military hardware Sheriff Joe will sit on as he gets both cheered and jeered along the parade route.

So Dec. 31 at 11 AM you know where Roadboy will be. I'll be at Montebello and Central watching the parade with a whole bunch of my fellow Phoenicians and their seasonal guests!

Come see it! Oh, and don't forget a good hat and some sunscreen - cause New Year's Day in Arizona is almost always perfect!

Post Parade Update:
This years parade was better than ever. It was unseasonably cold though. Sheriff Joe rode atop his tank. Oklahoma University sent their splendid marching band. First time I can remember no Bud Clydesdale's! 

Here's a couple of shots from 2010.

Mariachi's and Colorful Ballet Folklorico

Typical Float

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

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