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Americana — Parades, cars and costumes


Americans Parading #1

We love parades. It’s a national passion. We also love cars. Cars and parades go hand in hand here. It’s a tradition that goes back before the motor car to Revolutionary War days and soldiers marching with fife and drum. Later, horse drawn wagons brought circuses to town with wagons filled with animals and topped by brass bands and caliopes. I have a few personal attachments to parades.

Costumes and and music are also hallmarks of great parades. Philadelphia has the winter time Mummer’s Parade and New Orleans has Mardi Gras — both with fantastic costumes and music. (See my NOLA Mardi Gras post from 2004 — pre-Katrina — and here’s some flickr photos with costumes galore.) I’ve been in some parades and observed many more from the sidelines. While I appreciate the vehicular aspect of parades what I really LOVE is the costumes and music. Here are a few parade photos for the day. They make me smile. Hope they do the same for you.

ford 1938
My neighbor, Ted, has a 1938 Ford he’s been working on for many years. Here’s the car last year decked out for its appearance in our 2006 neighborhood Fourth of July Parade.

Ted, my next door neighbor, a former English teacher and a great DIYer, is driving his antique 1938 Ford in our neighborhood Fourth of July parade this morning. Ted’s been working on the car for as long as we’ve lived here (since 1993). He drove the black beast in the parade last year as well, so I guess it’s now a local tradition.

ted, koji engine
Ted, and his grandson, Koji, with the 1938 Ford. This was last year.

Americans Parading #2

73 parade
Milwaukee Circus Parade, 1973. Me in the straw hat, my friend Kitty in the striped coat.

Now, a flashback to my parading days. This is the Milwaukee Circus Parade in 1973 when the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI, brought its ancient, horse-drawn circus wagons (Ringling Brothers, I think) and a bunch of animals to town in a parade that drew the entire populace of the city. We were officially part of the clown brigade in 1973 but it was actually our second year participating in the parade. We gate-crashed in 1972 and the clowns invited us to go official in 1973. Why not?

Fourth of July, 1974? Madison, WI. Me, left, and Steve. Photo by Patti Sinclair, who also marched in the parade with us.
Fourth of July, 1974? Madison, WI. Me, left, and Steve. Photo by Patti Sinclair, who also marched in the parade with us.

Madison, WI, had no official parade in the 1970s. Partly this was because of the official city position against the Vietnam War. (Madison was mad at American foreign policy so why celebrate America on its birthday I guess was the thinking. Perhaps it was also because the city was afraid that a patriotic parade would bring out the protesters who would start something that would finish with window smashing and rioting — it had happened several times. In any event, there was no parade. So a group of us stepped up. Steve’s trombone was our music (He insisted on playing the Marseillaise and some Dixiland jazz). We accompanied him on kazoos. People seemed to like it. And we felt mighty great parading around the State Capitol Building and in one case actually marching right through (great acoustics).

Happy Fourth, all!