Politicians, floats and marching bands are the usual mainstays of parades on the Fourth of July. The parade I watched was no different than yours I'm sure. Or anyone else's across America. It was held on the main street of a small town in Wisconsin. It could have been in Oregon or Maine.
But maybe it felt a little more special because this town was
the first one in the state to have a Fourth of July parade. There was history here. Along with vendors on rollerblades
selling blue cotton candy.
The reviewing stand was across from the town's oldest building, a house
converted into a quaint as shit gift shop, covered in red white and
blue bunting. I had a very comfortable seat provided by the [do I need to say gay?] owner
of a popular antiques store who was one of this year's judges. To ward
off the sun I was wearing my White Sox Championship cap, always a big
hit in Green Bay Packer territory.
The parade started about a half an hour late, led by the county sheriff
and his smiling wife, driving in
his all black Ford vehicle with its patriotic red and blue lights
flashing. Behind them came all manner of amateur floats. The
local ice cream parlor had a cooler and several people dispensing real
to the crowd as their entry. There was a tiki bar on a flatbed
featuring a forty year old fat bartender serving refreshments to two
sixteen year old girls in bikinis
that kept riding up their butts. Several convertibles rolled by,
filled with at least two
dozen ladies wearing outrageous crimson chapeaux, representing the Red
Hat Society, a national group for women over fifty who have nothing
left to do with their lives but wear red hats.
There were old men, probably close to my age, carrying a multitude of
flags and marching for the American Legion or one of the local Lions Clubs. There
were also two uniformed veterans, a young one from Iraq, and an old one from Vietnam,
sitting on chairs on a nearly unadorned flatbed and waving like they wished they could be doing something else.
There was a high school band with a drum section that sounded like it
was marching to a different beat than the brass. I swear that one girl
who passed by me with her lips around a saxaphone was only pretending to play. This sadsack group was
since they were a very last minute substitute for the good band
had been scheduled. The scheduled band had to cancel at the last
minute -- that morning we were told -- because their bandleader was
arrested the day before for having kiddie porn on his computer.
Interspersed among an array of
marchers that included dozens of kids of all sizes and ages from a
local art school in charming, handmade costumes, were all kinds of people
passing out candy by throwing it at our feet. I guess there was a
parade rule against throwing candy directly at anyone. Somebody probably
sued. So feet it was. Mostly they were throwing Tootsie Rolls. The
operative word is ROLL.
The local Shakespeare Society, the song and dance people from the
summer theater troup, some huge fire engines and monster trucks blowing
horns so loud that my sphincter puckered -- all were well represented.
Probably one of the highlights of the parade was the number of antique
and vintage cars featured, from an old VW bus and a WWII Jeep to several colorful Ford Model A's, a
bunch of 1967 Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles, and even an old Mustang. All
painted with multiple coats of high gloss paint, accessorized with spotless white
walls, wire rimmed wheels and cute kids waving from the
With a notable exception -- one very old and very rusty pickup. It looked like
had retrieved it from a backyard dump, dragged it out of the pond where it had spent
the last fifty years, dried it off, got it started, and sneaked it
into the parade before
anyone realized they were there. The bleary-eyed driver looked
like he'd just finished doing time for something he'd perpetrated on
someone's daughter. The creepy. mustachioed, longhaired guy in the passenger
seat was in a sleeveless leather vest and had his tattooed arm hanging
out of the window. Did I mention he was creepy?
There was no cheering when the weird rusty wreck rolled by. Only stares
and whispers of disbelief. On my part, at least. Not that the two guys noticed. They
kept waving like the Queen of England and shouting Happy Fourth of
We dubbed it the Meth Float.
I think they were just ahead of the Miss Wisconsin car.