I am a parade fan, I suppose. I've seen quite a few of 'em in my time - and been in many as well. As it stands, the place of my current employ resides smack dab in the center of St. Augustine’s promenade route - so I was able to get a pretty good view of the most recent Easter Parade.
Lets start with preliminaries; my place of work is located about a block north of this years judge/review stand, complete with announcers who knew nothing more about the parades participants than what they tried to read off of what I'll assume were some badly printed notecards - more on that later.
At said review spot, an assortment of tunes played on a rickety sound system before the big show hit the street. The music started 'Eastery' enough with 'Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail" (apparently the only Easter song the "DJ" had in their library) followed by a little Crystal Gayle, and then - strictly symphonic patriotic tunes - "Battle Hymn Of The Republic," "Star-Spangled Banner," and the like. Jesus himself would probably have been in awe of this - having never set foot in America. I'd like to assume someone misread a memo which read "Parade to be preceded by Aramaic Songs" - but I know better.
The show began innocently enough with the arrival of a Sheriffs Motorcycle Guard unit, practicing it's figure 8 maneuvers as it wound it's way down the route. Right before they reached the review stand, we heard a loud "skreeounch" as one of the bikes turned too close to the ground and scraped its pipes on the pavement - causing that officer to pull over and become more observer than participant for a portion of the event.
I'll add that this regiment leading the parade was the first sight of law enforcement seen on that strip of road. Indeed, there was no officer present, to my knowledge, prior to the festivities to clear the streets and keep order for the folks scrambling to get the best curbside view.
Yup. The street was full of actual factual normal Sunday tourist town traffic until about 15 minutes before that first unit came into view. The police and color guard were followed in quick succession by The Grand Marshall, who rode in a lovely horse carriage, followed by St. Augustine's "Royal Family" - all in similar carriages or on horseback.
These are the same horses that trod the streets daily carting overweight gangs of touristas through the city streets despite the weather, be it a downpour or heatwave. They were tired, and it showed.
Some horses are probably past the age of retirement - and nearly all of them are extremely jittery when followed consecutively by groups firing cannons and muskets into the air. The horses admirably did their job, but could be seen shaking, startled, and having to be held tight by their handlers every few moments when the sounds of explosions and gunfire shook their brittle bones. Their "clean-up" man, shovel at the ready, had nearly filled his wheelbarrow of droppings from nervous equines by the time they reached my location, roughly one-third through the exhibitions course.
This served as an early indicator that perhaps the parades organization committee had given up event planning for Lent.
The most vigorous crowd reaction came when a team of 'Star Wars' costumed Stormtroopers and their retinue made the scene. The most innovative costume of the day was a trooper whose helmet was adorned with bunny ears as he/she carried a "blaster" made of carrots.
Aside from being a crowd favorite, they were also the most bewildering to the parade announcer who stuttered "From The Star Tr, Star WARS, it's the, uh, storm, Stormtroopers. Yes. LET the Force Be With You."
[O.K., let me pause here to reflect on this cinematic malfeasance by referencing that other Holy Trinity - Episodes 4, 5, and 6 of George Lucas' 'Star Wars' saga; First of all, buddy, it's 'May The Force Be With You' - and, anyone who has any remote knowledge of the film series knows that the Stormtroopers are mainly clones fighting for the 'bad guys' and are not privy to the 'Force' used by Jedi (both good and evil). Send that announcer to the Sarlacc pit, I say.]
Most of the other units in the parade were full of well meaning well wishers, tons of good local folks imploring the crowd to have a "Happy Easter!" in between noise-bursts from either piratical cannons or that van from an out-of-town sports franchise with its stereo full-blasting death metal crunch music. Seriously. It was deafening, and unconscionable why that unit was even in the parade. Perhaps they got lost in the traffic mix at the outset, and just made do with what they had?
I did mention the pirates, didn't I? There were three different pirate divisions in the parade, each with its own "ship" and cannon-fire. I get that St. Augustine is now a "Pirate" haven (indeed, some of them help pay my rent) - but can you imagine watching, say, the Macy's Parade on Thanksgiving morning and seeing three different 'Underdog' balloons over the course of an hour?
One unit had a pirate absentmindedly tossing Mardi Gras style beads to the crowd - the disinterested look on his face gave the idea that he was upset he didn't get the reaction those beads generally spark during Mardi Gras festivities. "No candy for you kids this year - but maybe yer mama will give us a show for these cheap plastic trinkets."
Having participated in the towns Christmas Parade in the past, I distinctly remember a clause in the rules stating that there should be no other 'Santa' in that particular parade aside from a grand entrance by the big guy at its finale. There were, however, at least 10 different Easter Bunnies either walking or riding in this processional - including a dressed-up Ford Maverick in the classic car constituency.
This brings to mind another observation. This was the Ancient City's Easter Parade. We are a town full of churches which, since the ole city's inception, has prided itself on a close association with a variety of Christian orders. Yet, in the damn celebration of the resurrection of the Son Of God - there was nary a mention of Jesus throughout the entire production. I saw two (count em, two) parade units that even mentioned Mr. Holiest of Holy.
I'm not a very religious man myself, but doesn’t that seem a bit odd?
I did note that one float, from the Church located in our predominantly vacated excuse for a "shopping mall," did feature the only band in the entire parade.
(Yes, one band, in the ENTIRE parade.)
The trio of musicians played a rousing rendition of the tune "Jesus' Blood Makes Me White As Snow" - which in and of itself is not such a bad thing. However - when closely followed by the float from the Sons Of The Confederacy, waving about 5 'rebel' flags for each of the three aged white men on that flat bed trailer - didn’t generate a happy reaction from the multicultural crowd gathered around.
It's not the parade I would have planned to celebrate that day. Despite itself, however, it was an entertaining spectacle, even with a voyeuristic "Oh Lord what next?" tone. I got a few laughs out of the deal.
I did wonder what may have occurred if Jesus himself had chosen that particular point in time to make his long awaited reappearance. I think he would have run screaming back to Nazareth - lamenting what had become of his memorial day.
Unless, maybe he was hiding out in a Stormtrooper costume...
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Reluctant Peep Ingester
firstname.lastname@example.org for hate mail and root beer float recipes
*from the song 'Easter Parade' - by the man known to a close acquaintance as "Uncle Irv"