Last weekend was an event in my town called the Pageant of Bands, wonderful hoopla that's been going on for 62 years and that never seems to get old. High school bands and color guards from around the region flock to compete against each other the first Saturday of every June, causing homeowners to trim lawns and groundskeepers to snip bushes and polish park benches. On Friday night there's a block party on the south end of town, the sound of which spirals up, allowing even those who don't attend to enjoy the music from their own back yard. On Saturday morning portable chairs are lined along the curb – sometimes placed the night before – to secure a spot for the 1 p.m. step-off. Kids race along the sidewalks balancing plates of blooming onions and fried dough. Townsfolk lucky enough to have houses on the parade route host porch parties that include beverages, snacks, conversation, stories, and all manner of small town gaiety. Something city people may not realize: when you don't have every imaginable entertainment option at your disposal, you make your own fun.
This year I attended a porch party hosted by a local law firm. I felt like I was in the catbird seat, perched in a prime location to hear bands playing and see the Saturday afternoon crowd come to life. After the Star Spangled Banner, sung by a girl whose haunting voice rose up over reverent heads that stretched along the four corners of downtown, I settled in to chatter with passersby, watch pink dolphin-shaped balloons take flight in their escape from little hands, duck grade school Silly String fights, and kick back for a fine day with nothing to do but listen to the village heartbeat, thrumming right along with the bass drums.
There's nothing new about parades. In fact, if you videotaped a hundred and ran them one after the other you probably couldn't tell the difference. To this I say: so what? We need parades. There's something about getting a bunch of people together on the street, then getting even more people together to cheer as they go by, that has a pleasing tang to it. All of us in these strange and uncertain days need a little something to cheer about, especially if what we're cheering is hard-working band kids who arrive in town waving from school buses and who march proudly down our streets, playing their hearts out.
My friend Susana asked me to take a picture of her standing in front of a passing corps in blue. She was holding her new baby. "His first parade!" she said. I snapped the picture, glad to be an early participant in little Hudson's parade experience. May he have many more.