The Art of the Parade

Parades have a special place in my art world.  It's hard to describe.  My family moved to the little town of Wellsboro back in the late 60's and when we moved into our house on Nichols St. we discovered that every mid June we were directly on the parade route for the fabulous Laurel Festival parade. Well, it was fabulous by the time it got dowtown anyway.  Mostly the bands marched by our house and all the houses on our street with little but the beating of drums (well, we could ususally count on the Junior High band blasting away under the stern and loving command of the mighty Nody Bujno) and the fire trucks would sometimes honk or rev up a siren.  The elementary school marching band didn't even start marching until past our house, they waited in the shade on a lawn around the corner for the parade to get to them. 

Each year though we invented enticements to see if the bands would play for us.  

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I believe we started with a 25 cent package, where we offered a quarter to any band that played for us.  (Once again proving that musicians/ performers were motivated primarily by making big money) 

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Bands started playing for us. And our crowd grew.

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The folks who came were inspired to make more signs.

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The crowd grew.

We grew louder and made more signs and soon the bands knew our location was where they could expect to be enthusiastically listened to, whooted with...danced to. 

Some bands stopped in their marching tracks and blasted us with thrilling horns and drums. 

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Over the years it has evolved to include music after the parade, food, kids playing in the fields and the gathering has encompassed generations.  The toddlers grew to be teens grew to be parents, grew to be grandparents and so so on.  We have felt overjoyed with the new arrivals and aching sadness with the departures. Now, many of the neighbors flow into their front yards and raise their tents and umbrellas. It has become a deep fun project, with friends bound together in a serious mission of deep joy. 

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The parade goes on.  

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Some of those years I was in the marching band going by, blowing my little clarinet, trying to be heard somehow above the big brass and drums, sweating in my itchy tight wool uniform. One of those first summer trials. 

Other years I was the audience, which one discovers is another kind of band.

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It's a life pagaent where I get to mingle with folks I've known since I was in elementary school, also with with new found folks from all backgrounds and beliefs.

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The parade goes on. The firetrucks and soldiers, 

the innocent and nervous beauty queens from 100 miles around doing their best Queen Elizabeth wave,

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the drum and bugle corps,

the high school marching bands, baton twirlers, and flag bearers

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the shriners in therir little buggies

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the local politicians

the parade goes on.

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And there is an element of it being an anachronism, with its giant nod to the past and little in the way of acknowledgement of the cultural forms that are sometimes so contentious in our modern world.  But the parade and our gathering of kind and jubilant humans is a magnificent weaving together of these impossible bundles. The parade holds it all.... but loosely. It is an art of community, where a six-year-old's scrambling for tootsie rolls effortlessly coexists with a sad float with a lone POW in a cage, with a blaring fire truck, with a giant mustachioed bagpiper. 

The parade goes on. 

 For the building of a house parade, from empty lawn to full out gathering.... 

Click on the slide show below.  

(Music is a live performance of "flock of birds" by the Llama Dalis)

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Michael Biddison       610-247-8718