It was a hot day in May when my best friend and I paraded down the streets of Webster Springs in skunk suits, and I wish I could say it was the craziest thing we’ve done. Back in those days, 4-H clubs and other groups spent long hours creating elaborate parade floats. It was a time when teenagers actually enjoyed shoving little squares of tissue paper in sculpted chicken wire for fun! It was healthy to be part of a large group effort and each year we voted on a different theme for the floats; a three ring circus, a waterfall with rainbow, and saving wildlife (thus the skunk suits). One year we set our goals high with “In Search of Serenity”. The floats were usually built on the flatbed of an 18-wheeler or pulled by one of the dad’s pick- up trucks, and yes, trophies were involved.
While Webster County has its Woodchopping Festival, lots of little towns across America have their own local celebrations and parades. Some include festivals honoring maple syrup, WV folk, forests, Mothman, railroads, quilts, hot dogs, apple butter, strawberries, Sauerkraut, duck tape, and road kill. Washington, DC hosts the Cherry Blossom Festival and one year my daughter and her Firecracker Jump Rope team were invited to participate in their parade. Now I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but it doesn’t take a genius to know NOT to put a jump rope team behind horses in the line- up. People might think things are messy in Washington now but I’m here to tell you, you don’t know messy until you’ve seen little girls swinging jump ropes in fresh horse manure.
The history of parades goes back to the beginning of time. It’s human nature to want to show off or show honor. In Biblical times the women would run out to greet the returning soldiers in a welcome procession. (1 Sam 18:6) The Lord told Joshua to have his people parade around the walls of Jericho until the walls collapsed, delivering the enemy into their hands. (Joshua 6:1-27) And King David danced “with all his might” when they paraded the Ark of the Covenant back home in 2 Samuel 6:14.
In modern day, Ernest Borgnine (a famous circus clown) observed the elaborate 4 mile long Ringling Bro. Circus parade and seeing “nothing but miles and miles of smiles”. While marching in that skunk suit down Main Street, I saw what he meant. Of course the people lining the street could have been grinning at the 8 feet tall turkey suits swinging their long necks following behind us. It was the first time the turkey suits entered my psyche. And since it’s the farmgirl way to use what one has, the turkeys would make several more appearances during my childhood, mostly in front of large crowds. I ran across a sign that reads “In our family we don’t hide our crazy; we simply parade it around and give it an ice tea.”
Sitting on the banks of the court house recently for the 55th annual Woodchopping Festival Parade I reminisced with a family friend about our elaborate 4-H floats and he suggested writing about them. I’m glad I did because they’ve taught me four things. 1. Find a reason to celebrate and then don’t let anyone rain on your parade. 2. It’s healthy to work in a group towards a common noble goal. 3. Consider your position and make sure you get in front of the horses if at all possible. You’ve got to watch where you’re going because life’s full of proverbial horse manure to avoid stepping in. 4. For miles of smiles that won’t leave town with the circus, and if you’re in search for serenity, simply walk humbly and let God be your parade marshal.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel