The People Parade
When I was a kid, I enjoyed the Evanston 4th of July parade for one particular reason, and it was because Ronald McDonald made an appearance. I know this makes me sound like a French-fry face-jamming poster child for early-onset obesity, but aside from the fact that I enjoyed the occasional Happy Meal, Ronald was a big deal to me at the time. He was famous. They had a statue of him at the restaurant where I had my second-grade birthday party. So the fact that he made time to stop by our parade was impressive.
As I got older however, the allure of the typical parade wore off, particularly Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which my husband wants to attend every year and I want to attend no year. I partially blame my parents for my crotchety attitude: Being of Polish descent, my parents had a collective chip on their shoulder about St. Patrick’s Day-related festivities. They always figured that Chicago’s Polish community is as important and active as its Irish community: How we don’t have a parade that the whole city attends? How come the river isn’t dyed red? Polish beer is just as stupor-inducing as Irish beer and our food factually better!
My husband loves a parade though and so I’ve agreed to accompany him to the downtown St. Patrick’s parade a few times. I didn’t mind going once, but when you’ve seen one of these parades, you’ve seen them all. There are the marching bands, the little dancing girls in the odd curly wigs, the politicians, the giant shopping cart, and, my favorite, the Jesse White Tumblers. But you also get really cold weather, crowds, the no-go on drinking in public and these inexplicable masses of rowdy drunken young people that somehow seem to fall, age-wise, between high school and college. I don’t know whether they’re city or suburban kids but from my old perspective, they’re just the worst: loud and obnoxious and messy and always in the dumbest novelty t-shirts that, no matter their actual slogan, can always be summed up as saying "Boobs! I am drunk." Shouldn't these children be home studying or at church or something?
I have also enjoyed the Pride Parade but even though it’s a colorful delight, it’s also a sweaty crush of people, which is not something I enjoy in general. So I’m kinda over the people parade, unless, of course, I’m in New Orleans and I’m drinking Abita beer and receiving beads. But even in that case it has to be a.) not too crowded and b.) not too hot. And technically that’s not even a people parade thanks to all the awesome floats.
The Dog Parade
Several years ago the Chicago White Sox introduced Dog Day at Comiskey Park (eventually U.S. Cellular Field). “What a stupid idea,” my family and I agreed. “We have to be there.” Much to our delight, if you got a ticket for your game, the price included a pre-game parade around the field, which we took advantage of with our sheltie, Major. This was my introduction to the dog parade, which, if you haven’t attended, is one of the best things in the world. The dogs were dressed in White Sox gear, but many owners eschewed the pedestrian t-shirts and went for boxer shorts, onesies and visors. I remember one black poodle had “Sox!” spray-painted in white on his side. Walking on the field itself was a treat, and doing it with your pet was an added surreal bonus. The fact that everyone was laughing the entire time made it extra-special. I’ve since attended with my own dog and even just as a spectator because it’s that much fun (petting dogs is a great way to kill time during a boring game).
Of course you don’t need to buy tickets to a White Sox game to enjoy a dog parade. I attended one in New Orleans this year called “Barkus” which featured a dog-king and a dog-queen and a lady waving a sign that said “Show Us Your Ticks!” In your neighborhood I just recommend looking out for signs of a doggie Halloween parade and getting ready for the best time of your life. The only thing funnier than a dog that knows it’s in a parade (all prancey and smiley and whatnot) is a dog that doesn’t realize it’s in a parade, led by a human being secure enough in him or herself to appear in a dog parade.
The Mini Parade
This was a new one to us as of this year. While visiting our friends Liz and Rich in New Orleans, we were taken to a parade called the “‘Tit Rex.” The “‘Tit” doesn’t stand for what you think it does: It’s short for “Petit,” since it was a tiny parade of tiny floats. People dressed up little pallets according to a theme and pulled them along on wheels, following a live band. People handed out bitty favors (bead bracelets instead of necklaces, for instance, and a miniature packet of French fries for a McDonald’s-themed float, bringing my fast food parade story full circle). It was pretty adorable although one critique I had was that it was hard to see, with all the crowding around. Plus, one guy who tried to get too creative with a candle on his float just ended up setting it on fire.
The Golf Cart Parade
This is the newest addition to my list of different kinds of parades I’ve enjoyed. While staying with friends in Lake Geneva this weekend, we discovered there’d be a golf cart parade in the community we were staying. To our delight, the golf carts weren’t just dressed up with streamers and balloons: Most were actually transformed into totally different objects, like speedboats or steamboats or rolling tiki bars. Some of the “boats” even pulled water skiers. The kids on the golf carts tossed candy to the crowds although if I’m being honest they needed to work on their tossing form. Instead of lobbing the candy out to us, a lot of them seemed to just throw the candy straight down on the ground, leaving some people scrabbling for mini Tootsie rolls and Smarties off the pavement. My favorite cart (and this should be no surprise) was dressed up as a speedboat with a dog in the front seat.
Looking back I realize what a rich, full parade life I’ve lived, but I’m still on the lookout for new and exciting ways for people to march, roll and woof down the street. I still have to say I think the dog parade is my favorite of all, but I consider myself an open-minded person and try to stay receptive to all things.
Are there other non-traditional parades I’ve never seen that you can regale us with tales of? What’s your vote for the best parade? Email me so we can share our tales of magic and public drunkenness.