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John R. Eggers: How to watch a parade?

We either are in the parade or we watch the parade.

If you are a parade watcher I know how you can get more out of it. I have, at times, been critical of some parades. In recent years my attitude has changed. The change may have happened when I was squirted by one of those enormous squirt guns a few years ago. It woke me up. Now I watch every parade by giving thanks and I wear a smile. Here’s how you can do the same. Let’s begin with the bands. What you see are 30 to 50 young people marching down the street in pretty good unison playing an up-beat tune like the theme from the movie Rocky. The people applaud and the band keeps marching. What you don’t see are the same students who would rather be home sleeping than practicing many hours outside on warm humid days with an instructor who is supposed to be enjoying his or her summer vacation. We see the kids practicing to start on the right foot and stay in line while still playing their clarinets and banging the drums. Although they enjoy the band, it’s not the most important thing on their mind. The instructor tries to keep them focused by saying, “Okay, listen up. Remember to start on your right foot.” A student responds, “I thought you said start on your left foot.” The instructor replies, “Hey, what did I say about keeping your ears open? Just do what I say.” His college degree did not prepare him for having patience when preparing for parades. The instructor tells them once again for the second or third or 10th time about the parade and where they will meet and what they need to wear and not to forget their music and to remember where they line up and to be sure to start marching together and if it rains to bring their plastic see-through pancho and, yes, we have to go back to the school together after the parade. Even though the crowd watching the parade only sees the marching high school band for just a few minutes, many stress filled hours were spent in making those few minutes pleasing to the the watchers. This is why you need to give thanks and smile when you see a few kids marching out of step and give a bigger smile at those students who carry the tubas and have streams of perspiration rolling down their cheeks. I especially like the water squirters. There is always somebody who feels that the people watching need to experience a little discomfort. It does add more excitement to the whole event. Although I usually avoid getting wet, I secretly hope they come and squirt my wife and I smile when I see others get doused and am thankful that it wasn’t me. Parades are really for children, which means they are for all of us. We have at least one kid memory of parades from long ago. We take pleasure in giving kids the candy that happens to fall in our lap. We smile and say thanks for avoiding those extra calories and for putting a smile on a little one’s face. I would not like to be a politician in a parade. They have a smile on their face but I’m not sure it’s genuine, which, I suppose, makes them a good politician. They have to be saying to themselves, “I would rather be sitting where they are sitting. Do I really want to do this? Do those people really want to read a brochure? Will this help me get votes? I want to go home.” For politicians marching in parades is when they get those second thoughts about running for office. I am surprised more don’t run for home. I smile and take their brochure and give thanks that there is someone other than me wanting to be a public servant. Do you like those little Shriner cars? Now that’s fun. I think if we all had a little car to drive in the parade, there would be no one watching. One time I purchased one of those Shriner cars and sold it on Ebay for a thousand dollars to someone in Texas. After waiting over a year for the person to come and get it, I sold it again and got another thousand dollars. Guess what? The second person who bought it was also from Texas. When I see those little cars I smile at the fun the drivers are having and give thanks for the great state of Texas. I take off my hat to those people who create the floats and especially the 4-H floats. I imagine the young kids getting together at someone’s farm on a warm summer evening to decorate the float and decide who and what animals will ride on it. The chickens seem to guess what’s going on and they run for cover. They aren’t so dumb. 4’H’ers have a good time and always seem to be smiling. If all of our kids were involved in 4-H, I think our young people would have fewer issues. I’m thankful I live in an area that supports 4-H clubs. We need to give special thanks for all of those fire fighters when we see the fire trucks go by. Even though the horns cause us to have a mild heart attack, we put our hands over our ears and smile. We are once again made aware of what they do by the poignant reminders we have been reading about and listening to of the 19 fire fighters lost in Arizona. Parades give us a chance to salute the flag, wave at a queen, enjoy old autos, say hello to the mayor, watch 18 wheelers, laugh at a clown, and dodge the horse droppings as we pack up our coolers and blankets and go home. I am thankful for the opportunity to see another parade and smile all the way home as I think about my wife getting squirted with water by the clown riding the mini bike.

— JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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