I’ve always been a little obsessed with parades. I scoured the internet trying to find out where parades originated, or why. What I’ve found is this: nobody knows. There are cave drawings from over ten thousand years ago that depict prehistoric men marching wild game home to cook in a wild and celebratory manner. Perhaps it is human nature – a group of people with a common cause just tend to rally around one another and rejoice.
When you think about the concept of people, musicians, floats, horses, waving pageant queens – it seems as though one would be overwhelmed at having every sense stimulated all at once. But, I’m not.
My first memory of a parade isn’t of an event I attended; rather, I remember Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in the movie, Easter Parade. At the end of the film, the two walk together in the Easter parade, surrounded by women in beautiful hats. The excitement and the colors and the fancy dresses – it was exactly the kind of thing that a little girl clings to. When I was old enough, my parents took my sister and I to the local college’s homecoming parade. We’d never seen anything like this. We saw our first floats – fashioned from chicken wire, tissue paper, glitter and glue – all on the back of a flatbed truck. And candy! We never imagined that there would be candy.
As we grew older, our parents would take us to Christmas parades, Thanksgiving parades, Fourth of July parades, homecoming parades for every high school and college in the quad-city area. We had our favorites; we’d always argue over which float was the nicest, wave at the veterans in their fancy uniforms, and look for the Shriners in fez hats, driving tiny cars. We would dive recklessly for candy, hoping for just one more Tootsie Roll. We would wait, standing on tip toes to see the last float or car – the most special one, be it the Pride of Dixie Marching Band, Santa Claus, or the Homecoming Queen.
Even still, I admit to getting up a little earlier on Thanksgiving and Christmas days, just to see the spectacle. I will always love the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with its giant balloons and holiday songs.
Parades on the 4th of July are special because, unlike most parades, they happen in the heat of the summer. An occasional breeze will cause the Stars and Stripes to wave in the wind and the band will play the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful. I’ll find myself getting a little misty eyed until the fireworks begin. I’m looking forward to this year’s Independence Day parade. Sometimes our childhood joys get lost in the day-to-day machinations of being a grown-up. Perhaps my life has felt a little gray of late; it seems that July 4th will get here just in time to infuse my life with a little bit of color, some community spirit, pride in my fellow countrymen, and just a handful of tissue paper.
P.S.: All the images were taken in our community of Florence, Alabama, over the years. They are courtesy of the UNA Collier Library Archives & Special Collections. If anyone has anymore information on these photos, we’d love to know.