It’s parade season. Multi-million dollar productions in New York City, Anaheim and elsewhere around the country fill the holidays and our television screens with glitz and pageantry.
But, despite their uber budgets – ask a Hill Country German if you need a definition – those nationally televised events can’t compete in spirit and pride with the productions staged in small town Texas.
Earlier this fall I stood elbow-to-elbow with thousands of spectators along the curb at the Gillespie County Parade in Fredericksburg and the annual Holiday Parade in Tomball. The excitement and anticipation in the air was as thick as the oak and pecan-infused smoke at the Salt Lick around lunch time.
A jacked up, tricked out F-150 with a local beauty queen, sponsored by a neighborhood florist, and wrapped in yellow roses and tinsel streamers is every bit as special to a small community as a two story fairy tale float on 34th Street in the Big Apple.
The pride of the local high school band, smartly dressed in its performance garb and marching to the beat of a precision drum line is contagious. There are the old military vehicles sporting the red, white and blue and carrying veterans from WWII, Korea and Vietnam as ROTC units march in step nearby.
In Fredericksburg there was a canopied flatbed trailer filled with seniors rocking back and forth while waving to the crowd. In Tomball it was a Camaro convertible with the recently crowned Mrs. Senior Assisted Living surrounded by her great grandkids.
The distinctly different sirens of a 70-year-old unit and a state-of-the-art fire engine wailed in harmony as they rolled down the flagged boulevard. Men and boys removed their well-worn caps and western hats each time Old Glory passed by. Young girls cringed and giggled when the horses “pooped” on the asphalt.
Wide-eyed kids found it hard to focus on any one element of the procession. Cowboys on horseback to the left were competing with colorful clowns on motor scooters to the right. An Uncle Sam on stilts loped along the yellow stripe on Main Street in Tomball. Antique tractors and hand-pulled red wagons toting costumed farm dogs rolled by in the “Burg”. It was eye candy for all ages and it was all Texas.
Big city parades may have their high flying helium filled cartoon characters, heart-throb celebrities and rose covered rolling wonderlands, but they will never have the down home authenticity of a locally owned parade. It’s a spectacle of community pride. It’s small town Texas and I’ll take that over big city pomp any day.
Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin’ Man
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