From the Heartland

July means one thing in this country…parade season.

If I’m being completely honest, my affection for parades resembles something similar to the 7,500 point drop in the stock market in 2008, which was momentarily preceded by a transcendent, albeit fleeting, push to record highs.

My nostalgic peak for parades occurred in the summer of 1989 when I was tasked with selling popcorn on my roller blades up and down Bridge Street in Albert Lea, Minn. My buddies and I were doing a fundraiser for our local hockey association. For a newly minted middleschooler there was nothing more liberating than the freedom to work the parade route, wolf pack in tow, on blades in front of a bevy of potential lady friends. I remember my game being super tight that day. At least it was prior to me eating asphalt right in front of the Freeborn County Diary Princess. My “all for one, one for all” band of brothers abruptly disbanded, providing everyone in attendance an unobstructed view of a boy pulling both himself and his ego up off the pavement. At that moment, I was seriously considering becoming a foreign exchange student. I opted instead for a two week asylum in my bedroom. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered from what I’ve commonly referred to as “the fall” in my personal pantheon of humiliating experiences. Without question that’s unfairly shaped my view of the parade scene ever since. Regardless, I think we can all agree the parade as we currently know it is in need of a major facelift. The following is a simple threepoint plan, offering my personal recommendations:

Redefining what is and is not an acceptable float.

Call me crazy, but I think we’ve really lowered the bar regarding what should and should not be considered a float. Strictly speaking from an economic point of view the Law of Diminishing Returns should be applied when evaluating float eligibility. For example, if you’re going to pull me off the lake to sit in a chair for nearly two hours on the 4th of July, I better be blown away by the pageantry being displayed in front of me. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for Tony Bennett singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” on top of a gyrating replica of the Golden Gate Bridge. However, I will say I think we can do better than a truck with some tag board on the driver’s side door saying “Call Lon for a Free Quote on Lawn Care.” The simple fix…more crepe streamers. Trust me, parade goers love crepe streamers. Developing an SOP for candy quality, quantity and distribution.

The candy often makes the parade. Just ask the kids.

Far too often over the last several years I’ve witnessed an “offering plate” approach to not only the quality of candy offered but also the quantity distributed. For many designated candy chuckers, parting with that candy is like being forced to tithe on Sunday morning. To help overcome this mental block, I’d recommend pre-parade visualization techniques that associate the candy to little pieces of stress that can be physically expunged through the simple act of uninhibited disbursement. As far as quality is concerned, top-shelf is the only way to fly. The payback is worth it because both the kids and their parents remember the floats (and their advertisements) they produce every year. If you’re looking for business donations to supplement your candy budget I have one word for you…dentists.

Can’t miss preamble and concluding crescendo
for event planners.

Every parade should be led by a small army of area veterans with one given the specific honor of hoisting Old Glory. They should be followed immediately by the local high school marching band playing our National Anthem. Seeing the tuba players defiantly staggering onward in 90-degree heat, wishing they had chosen the flute, yet refusing to lay down their instruments just screams PATRIOTISM. And finally there is no better crescendo than the Shriners buzzing the city streets in their mini convertible cars. The Shriners offer more near misses than most demolition derbies. They are the Blue Angels on wheels whose drivers I believe are equal parts Jimmy Johnson and Evel Knievel. Just watch the crowd as they fly by and you’ll have your answer for what keeps us coming back every year.

Best of luck this parade season!




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