Parades Are So Silly, Even a Caveman Can Do Them

Whomever invented the parade wasn’t the sharpest rock in the cave.  I’m thinking this as my wife and I are shivering on my TV station’s float in Tulsa‘s annual Christmas Holiday Parade (more on that later). It’s not the first time I’ve wondered who in their right mind would invent something so silly, but no more so than tonight, as 30 mile per hour winds blow through the concrete canyons of downtown Tulsa, and the wind chill is somewhere below bearable.  Despite the big chill, thousands of smiling faces line both sides of the streets.  They’re truly die-hard parade-goers.

And it’s my second parade of the day!  Just a few hours earlier I’m participating in one of the countless small-town parades that crawl down Main Streets across Oklahoma and the rest of the country this time of year. I’m riding shotgun in one of the lead cars as the parade grand marshal.  It’s cold, and it doesn’t help that nature’s air conditioner is going full blast.  I’m in a convertible.  Brrr!   And it’s so windy, the first toss of candy to the outstretched arms of begging kids come back like a boomerang and hit me in the face.  Ouch!

Why are parades silly?  Think about it.  They’re little more than people walking or riding down the street waving to people sitting on the curb or standing on the sidewalk… waving back to them.  See what I mean?

The Grants Pass "Cavemen"

My first memory of a parade is as a young boy in Grants Pass, Oregon.  It’s a terrifying memory. Our high school and town mascot was a caveman. Every Memorial Day parade,  these old, big, hairy men dressed up as cavemen would run into the crowd, grab a screaming spectator, throw them over their shoulders, and toss them into a cage.  I would do anything not to attract their attention so they wouldn’t pick me.  Not that they would pick a screaming 5-year-old boy over a screaming, young, beautiful woman.  Come to think of it, the screaming, beautiful women were probably just as scared as I was.  You would be too if some hairy Chamber member dressed up in loincloths, wielding an over-sized turkey leg was chasing you.

Since then, I’ve probably been to hundreds of parades. Waving from the street and from the sidewalk.  In the blistering heat and shivering cold. Celebrating the birth of our country, to honoring the men and women who fought and died for it (my favorite). Each has a memory. Like another one I was grand marshal for years ago.  It was in a very small town in Oklahoma.  Don’t blink. Two blocks and the parade is over. You think I’m kidding? The organizers said they’d have a car for me, my wife and three little boys.  They were excited.  What kind of sports car or classic would it be?  Turned out the town rented a Geo Metro for us.  You know, the car that often serves as a punch line for small-car jokes. You think I’m kidding?   I wish I had a picture of that one.  And of the verbal warfare that got the parade off to a rough start.  The organizers argued for 30 minutes who would lead the parade. “I want to go first. No, I do.”   It was the longest 2 blocks of my life.  You think I’m kidding?

So who did invent this silliness?  And why?  To find out, I went straight to the experts….  Here are a couple of the responses I got:

  • “American legends give Paul Bunyan credit for inventing parades.  He wanted to avoid building a new logging camp each fall.”
  • “The first St. Patrick Day parade was not in Ireland, but in New York City on March 17, 1762.  Parades are for celebration.”

I’m just a little surprised a caveman wasn’t responsible.  So I’m waving a half-frozen arm tonight and there’s another parade moment to jot down in my memory bank.  I usually yell out “Merry Christmas” to those waving back from the sidewalks. However tonight, I’m throwing in a few “Happy Holidays”  just to be safe. A few days ago the city council voted to okay a permit to change the name of the parade to the “Holiday Parade” instead of “Christmas Parade”. Gotta be PC, right?   I can handle that, AND the cold.  No problem.  But if I see a caveman, I’m out of here.  You think I’m kidding?

2 Comments on “Parades Are So Silly, Even a Caveman Can Do Them

  1. Aw, come on, Mark! Merry CHRISTmas! Defy the pc’ers. Cause a stir!

    • You’ll be glad to know the “Merry Christmas” shouts far out-numbered the “Happy Holidays” from the parade participants and spectators.

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