You know what I’ve been thinking about lately? Parades.
This past weekend Poulsbo, WA (the small hamlet I live in) hosted Viking Fest – their annual celebration commemorating Norwegian Constitution Day. The three-day gala featured all the usual festival fare – rides, games, high-calorie foods, surly teenagers, and, of course, a parade.
Because we reside on one of Poulsbo’s main boulevards the parade route swung right past our apartment. So after spending the morning in town visiting a replica Viking village and wolfing down funnel cakes, my family returned home and settled in for the parade. Aside from a few Norwegian themed floats, this parade was just like any other and featured marching bands, fire trucks, clowns, local beauty queens and Shriners. After twenty minutes, boredom began to set in and I found myself wondering exactly why so many people chose to spend an afternoon this way.
Now that’s not to say this wasn’t a lovely parade. It was just as good as most, but I guess the bigger issue I found myself contemplating was why we even bother with parades at all anymore. It seems to me parades are a product of a bygone era; a simpler time when men were men, entertainment options were scarce, and sitting still for hours in order to watch people walk by was a heck of a way to spend an afternoon.
But this is the 21st century. Our modern world provides an abundance of ways for us to waste time. There are hundreds of cable television channels, DVDs, video games, the internet… it’s basically a never-ending smorgasbord of mind-numbing fun. And yet despite all of these options parades continue to exist. Apparently they’re a form of entertainment that can’t be killed by our technological advancements and our shrinking attention spans. They’re the cockroaches of the entertainment world.
So why have parades managed to maintain a healthy presence in our fast-paced, everything at our fingertips society? Is there a powerful parade lobby I wasn’t aware of? And if so, do these lobbyists line the pockets of local politicians in order to ensure that, at least once a year, our streets will be flooded with bad marching bands and creepy clowns?
Or is it something far less cynical. Perhaps Americans, and other societies around the world, actually continue to watch and participate in parades as a means of carrying on tradition. We don’t really embrace tradition the way we used to. In fact, nowadays embracing anything outside of your immediate family is grounds for a lawsuit. So maybe dragging our overstimulated butts off our couches and onto the street once or twice a year is merely a rare opportunity to reconnect with a simpler time. And that’s a good thing. I think.
Around the time I was questioning the very existence of parades, my two-year-old son Jack had seen enough and was ready for a nap. We’ll give the Viking Fest Parade a go again next year and maybe by the time he’s five he’ll be able to stay awake long enough to see the whole thing. On that day I fully expect my son to turn to me and ask a simple, straightforward question.
“Daddy, why do we have parades?”
And when he asks, I’ll rub his head lovingly, look him in the eye and answer as honestly as I possibly can.
“Son… I have no idea. But I can tell you this, they’re not going anywhere any time soon.”