A truly agonizing parade experience: Editor's Note
By LAURA PIERCE
Kent Reporter Contributor
July 15, 2010 · 3:26 PM
I spent this past Sunday afternoon covering the Cornucopia Grande Parade. It had everything from belly dancers to drill teams to politicians, all striding along while people and small dogs watched in wonderment.
I got my usual July sunburn, in spite of the sunblock, and thanks to Irish genetics.
But as I watched Seafair pirates attempting to give a new crop of kids nightmares, I thought to myself: there is something missing here.
Then I realized there were a lot of somethings missing:
Gale-force winds. Driving rain. Polar temperatures.
I realized I was having a parade flashback – an experience etched so deeply into my subconscious that only crashing cymbals and slightly off-kilter band music could summon it.
I was thinking of a truly painful parade experience I had back in my salad days as a newspaper editor in the Sedro-Woolley area. And instead of a sunny July day, we were hanging on through a fierce Arctic night, for what was called Santa’s City of Lights Parade.
Sedro-Woolley isn’t on the map for a lot of things, but to anyone who’s stood there on a street corner, it has the most uncanny windflow. It surpasses perhaps even Chicago in terms of gales blowing down its skinny canyon of a downtown. Add freezing rain to the blast, and the effect is a low-altitude version of Everest.
But anyone could march in Santa’s City of Lights Parade in downtown Sedro-Woolley, and lots of local people were quick to rise to the challenge. The trick was to cover the distance, with some kind of light source that stayed lit. That meant anything from log trucks in Christmas lights to a goat in a light-up bow tie.
One year, possibly in a delusional state, I decided my daughter Amelia and I would be entries in this parade. Short on cash and time, I ran into the back of the press plant, looking for inspiration. I saw two giant white boxes – and an idea was hatched.
We would be Christmas gifts.
And not just any gift: the lit-up, dancing kind.
I punched holes in the boxes for our heads and our hands, then painted red stripes down the side. The stripes were critical – along with giant bows on our heads, we would look more like gifts, and less like dancing cement blocks.
I bought several yards’ of battery-operated light strings and taped them to the sides of the boxes. Then I wrapped yards – probably a mile’s worth – of plastic wrap around the boxes, so that the lights would stay on through the usual downpour, and the boxes wouldn’t turn into great wads of toilet paper.
We took our costumes on a dry run through the front yard, thereby alerting the neighborhood kids that something truly spectacular was in the works.
On parade night, we loaded the boxes into the car and sped off into the night.
We arrived at the staging area and I popped Amelia’s box over her head and - voila! There she was, a 5-year-old dancing gift box, with serious misgivings about parades.
Then I put my box over my head. I promptly realized I couldn’t bend my arms to do anything, including turning on our lights. Then it started to pour.
My head was now essentially a plug, keeping the rain from pouring through the box and turning it to pulp. So I couldn’t take the thing off. Through some feat of gymnastics, I finally managed to flip the switch on both our boxes.
And there, standing in the darkness and the downpour, we really did look like Christmas gifts. Or cement blocks wearing bows.
I don’t know how long we had to stand there on our street corner, waiting for the procession to begin, but it felt like an eternity. The acres of plastic wrap did their job, though, and kept our boxes from disintegrating. And we stayed lit, too.
Finally it was our turn to start walking, and dancing. And boy did I ever! I was so darned cold that it was the only thing to start my blood flowing again. For some stupid reason, I brought a conch-shell trumpet with me, which was loud enough to wake the dead when I blew it.
Amelia, who was buried under layers of sweaters and coats, quietly marched along behind me, no doubt wishing she was the member of another family.
Eventually the procession wound to the judges’ table. By this point, rendered incoherent from the cold, I was a manic dervish, making sounds on my trumpet that sounded like a sick cow and dancing for all I was worth. I distinctly remembered thinking, either go big or go home.
I went big.
And that year, for the first time ever, the town paper won first place in Santa’s City of Lights Parade.
No doubt beating out the goat with the bow tie.
I was never so happy to peel a bow off my head in my life. And my kid was thrilled to be able to bend her arms again.Contact Kent Reporter Contributor Laura Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-872-6600 ext. 5050.