I don’t mean to be a curmudgeon. That doesn’t mean I don’t act curmudgeonly, it’s just that I think few curmudgeons consciously choose to act that way. Other people apply the label, and curmudgeons could care less. Curmudgeons are notoriously apathetic.

You are the float in my parade.

So, call me a curmudgeon, I don’t care. I’m just not that into parades anymore. As a kid, parades were fun. Sometimes people threw candy to the crowd, but we went to a parade for the excitement of seeing those funny little Shriner’s cars, and maybe a clown on a unicycle. My kids, on the other hand, judge a parade by the amount of candy received. More candy = better parade. I would like to see more cool cars and marching bands that actually play when they pass by, instead of just walking to a cadence (although I can dig a good cadence).

I am at the Swedish Days Parade in Geneva, Illinois. Never mind that Geneva is in  Switzerland. And before any local history police call me out, I know that Geneva is actually named for Geneva, New York, which beats being called “Muck-Suck” like Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was before early residents wisely decided to also name it after Geneva, New York. I don’t live in Geneva anyway, but I go to church here. I have lived in nearby Batavia for about a year (named for Batavia, New York, which was in turn named for a region in the Netherlands which is thankfully the end of that) so I don’t have a lot of social investment- I may recognize some of the parade participants, but they won’t recognize me. I smile and wave, nonetheless.


Swedish Days is the one big event that kicks off the astronomical summer in the Tri-City Area. Even though Memorial Day is the traditional start of summer from a state of mind point of view, Geneva’s parade on that day lasted all of 15 minutes. Quick and dirty. Stand when the veterans pass with the Flag, hope in vain for the marching band to play something as they saunter past, mouths firmly not on their mouthpieces, and thank you, ma’am, that’s it. A quarter hour, and back home in time for lunch.

Well, you don’t know what / We can find / Why don’t you come with me little girl / On a magic carpet ride

The Swedish Days Parade, however, went on for two and a half hours. 180 minutes of all manner of floats and cars and politicians and local establishments and marching musicians (I only assume they actually could play). 1/4 of it was Shriners.

45 minutes of Shriners? Really? Is that necessary in any parade besides one held exclusively for the Shriners?

Ten days later I find myself in that jewel of the Pacific Northwest: Ashland, Oregon. Longtime residents of Ashland regard their Fourth of July Parade as sacred birthright and stake their claim to their God-given viewing spot on Siskiyou Blvd. (near the Safeway) with righteous fervor and all manner of picnic blankets, camp chairs, and stretch golf carts. Visitors and natives alike embraced the Red and the Blue, the Left and the Right, Christian and Pagan, grape vine and hemp cloth. But no Shriners! They must have been doing the Medford parade. Honestly, I’ve seen at least seven parades’ worth of Shriners, so I’m set for the foreseeable future.

OK, that’s just derivative.

My nephew Chris marched with the Boy Scouts (who were having a rolling war between troops using water balloons and catapults) so we had some personal tie to this particular parade. There was occasional candy distribution to the kids along the route, and my picky kids rejected at least half of it. If it isn’t a Tootsie Roll®, Double Bubble®, or a roll of Smarties® it gets donated to a charity (me). By the time the requisite 15 minute-long gap appeared about 3/4 of the way through, we were toast and so made our way downstream to the festivities at the end, which eventually led to food and beer.

I’m not eschewing parades altogether. Too many in a short span of time just dilutes the novelty. Okay, the Shriners riding around on the motorized coolers was amusing.

Ten or fifteen years from now, I may find them amusing again (especially if it’s the same old guys riding them).