Saturday, December 12, 2009

Life's a Parade

This morning Bob and I continued a family tradition by taking the kids to the Karns Christmas Parade. Karns (a suburb of sorts of Knoxville) hosts two parades a year, and so far they've brought a smile to my face every time. I wrote this a few years ago about the parade and thought you might enjoy it:

My favorite tradition to commemorate Americana at its finest is small town parades. I like everything about parades: the fanfare, the free stuff, the celebration of what people hold dear. Parades are like a microcosm of a community set to bright lights and cheers. Quite simply, parades represent who we are.

As a life-long fan of these celebrations, I was delighted to join in the Karns parade last July. Several friends and I represented MOMS Club, a non-profit support group for stay-at-home and part-time working mothers. Minimal costs and preparation appealed to our group. “There are no fees or sign-ups to be in the parade. Just show up by 8:30am in the Ingles parking lot,” informed Roger Kane, parade organizer and the president of the Karns Business Association. “We never know if we’re going to have one or a thousand floats. As long as it moves, you can have it in the parade,” added Kane.

On the day of the big event, a drizzle threatened to turn into a downpour at any moment, but spirits weren’t dampened. The parking lot was a-buzz as groups rallied for position. There was a fleet of purple tow trucks from Clinton, the Karns High School football team flexing some muscle, and a few riding horseback without a pooper scooper. No one wanted behind them. There were a few politicians and business owners, but most groups were here for the sheer fun of it. My son particularly liked the fleet of John Deere tractors. Roger Kane said they were not an organized group—just guys who like to ride tractors. Fantastic! Every fire truck from here to Oak Ridge was ready to blast lights and sirens. Little league teams gathered in uniform and a baton twirler practiced with flair. Even Barney Fyfe and his Mayberry look-a-like crew were in their small-town element.

Within five minutes, we’d reached the library and our first small but enthusiastic crowd. Familiar faces cheered us on. Kids clamored for candy. Neighbors came out of their homes to stand next to neighbors they likely didn’t know. It occurred to me parades have a way of breaking down barriers between strangers. Smiles were contagious.

Even my three-year-old who was crying minutes before was starting to have a ball. He and his friend chatted about the construction vehicles not far behind us. “There’s a bulldozer!” Cole shouted. Bobby piped up, “Actually, it’s a bobcat.” Dads laughed. And then six-year-old Ella, looking back at a sea of lights from the fire and tow trucks, exclaimed in a sweet genuine voice, “It’s so beautiful!”

Aren’t parades great? Kids get loads of candy and fun doo-dads, organizations and companies get free exposure, young people get to feel important for a few minutes, adults get to remember what it feels like to be a kid, and our heroes like volunteer firemen get to show off a bit. For just a few minutes, this time-honored tradition allows a town to come together and celebrate what makes this place home.

The next parade will likely be the last Saturday of July. Check back here for details.

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