Lessons on Parade

I’m a pretty unlikely person to head up a parade committee.  For starters, I’m one of those odd birds who doesn’t really care for parades.  I’m pretty sure I was in one during that brief, awkward time of being a Cub Scout.  Then, a decade or so ago, I got peer-pressured into walking along with some theatre co-workers in Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade.  Besides those two, I don’t think I’ve been in any other parades in my life.

From the street side, I’ve probably seen maybe six.  As I said, just not a big fan.

Still, this time it made sense.  This seemed like such a good moment to get our name and faces out in front of the people of Twin Falls.  The Western Days Festival is a very big deal in this town, and not showing up and looking our best just seemed like it would be the very definition of a missed opportunity.  The city shuts down the main drag for an entire Saturday morning and somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 people line the streets to catch candy and watch the show go by.  For us to not be a part of that, when it was such an inexpensive way to show our community spirit and our friendly faces would just have been silly.  Like Barney-Fife-shooting-himself-in-the-foot kind of silly.  So, no, let’s be smart and go be a part of this.  And so we did.

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It took a lot people going to a lot of meetings and doing a lot of thinking, designing, talking, negotiating, compromising, and, finally, a lot of hard work, but we managed to pull it off.  We put a float together and made it all the way through town.

And got a surprisingly welcoming response!

After living for a lot of years in and around Chicago, and then a few more in and around Los Angeles, I had been given the impression that Twin Falls did not care for Democrats at all.  I’m used to pretty “Democrat-friendly” towns, if you know what I mean.  People had told me that I shouldn’t expect that here in the Magic Valley.  Apparently the Democratic Party float has even been “booed” as it went by in previous parades.

Not so this weekend, I am very pleased to report. No “boos” at all.

Saturday morning, the first day of June, 2019, the streets were lined on both sides with cheery, friendly faces, all of whom seemed happy to see us, even though we were nearly at the tail end of the parade, and a lot of those folks had to have been bored to tears by then.  The kids had filled candy bags from the people in front of us and those bags were stuffed enough to equal my total childhood’s Halloween take, all years combined.  Those kids were happy enough with a few more pieces from us, though!

It wasn’t just the candy, though.  Actually, by the time they saw us, I’m pretty sure they were pretty much “candied out.”  Even the most sugar-crazed kid has a stopping point, right?  No, I think it was the fact that we gave them so many fun and interesting things to look at as we went by.

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The first notable thing about our entry was our flailing-arm tube man.  He’s a red-white-and-blue guy with a huge grin and bright, cheery eyes.  We call him “Happy.”  “Happy, the Flailing Democrat.”  He’s definitely an eye-catcher, and he was riding atop the gooseneck so he grabbed the attention right away from the green T-shirts in front of us.

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Next we had disc jockey and star-maker extrordinaire, Dei Scott, in her All-American cowboy hat, playing lullabies for us on the CD player.  No, it wasn’t as loud as the rockers in front of us nor the semi-truck behind us, but then, it wasn’t supposed to be: our theme was “Summertime Lullabies” and we stuck with that.  We were calm and quiet and pleasant and fun.  Dei was all snuggled up in her PJs in her rocking chair and watching over a brood of grandchildren (actually Susie Kapeleris’ kids) also in their pajamas.  The kids were all blowing bubbles for the whole trip, and the crowd loved that.  (And nobody could ever tell that they must have been roasting in those furry jammies!  Good job, kids!)

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After our “beddie-bye bubblers,” next on the float was a cage full of six goats— three adults and three kids.  Those goats were a huge hit.  Dozens of times we heard calls of, “Hey, look!  They’ve got goats!” from the curbsides.

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Behind the goats rode Carole Stennet, the matriarch of the clan, smiling and waving as lovely and charming as any parade queen there ever was.  It was her inspiration and her expertise that helped a lot of this happen.

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Next to Carole was newcomer Leah McKinney, who rode and waved for a little while and then hopped off the float to go and mingle with the parade-goers a bit.  Leah is going to be a very welcome addition to our cause.  She walked for miles, along with co-walkers Kent Ireton and Susie Kapeleris, handing out candy and smiles and waves to the many people who had already sat through a long parade, but who still looked happy to see us.

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I walked along with them, juggling as I went.  That’s me, Randy Cromwell, juggling in the picture below.  I decided I’d be able to keep the balls in the air a bit more if I weren’t stumbling in the street.  I climbed back onto the float and juggled there for the last third of the parade.  I think I might have gotten a few claps, and I know I got at least one “Way to go, Man!”  I mean, it wasn’t goat adoration, but it was still pretty sweet.

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In a trailer behind the trailer was the final part of our entry.  These were last-minute surprise addition that ended up being a nice feature.  A couple of donkeys — a mom and a foal — who rode in a trailer all to themselves at the back.  We heard just as many, “Look!  They’ve got donkeys, too!” as we heard about the goats.  As much fun as the ladies and the candy and the kids and the bubbles and the Tube Man were, I think the animals were the real stars of the float.

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What we really did, though, was make a connection with a few people (or maybe a lot of people? — one can hope) in the City of Twin Falls.  We reminded or informed people that we are here, we exist, and that we are a fun, friendly, welcoming group of people who can do silly stuff like drop juggling balls and blow bubbles and ride with stinky goats even while we’re trying to get good, important work done.  With any luck, we’ll be able to encourage a few of those parade-goers (a whole bunch, I really hope) to join us in our meetings and events, and to bring their ideas, their enthusiasms, and their energies to help us begin to heal the rifts both in this country and in our local area as well.

It’s a huge job, but if we keep putting ourselves out there, and being friendly and welcoming — and even silly when the moment calls for it — we will encourage more and more folks to join us and work with us, and make our party, our county, our state, our country and our world stronger and healthier.

We’ll do better if we are open and welcoming, rather than belligerent and cantakerous.  Like the old saying goes, “you catch more voters with honey than you do with vinegar.”

Let’s get out there and catch us some voters.

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