If a prize existed for the coming together of community, I would have to say it would go to Fridley for its ‘49er Days Parade. The nearly three-hour parade June 27 was not only about Fridley, it was also about the surrounding cities and region as evidenced by the parade’s lineup. A fitting tribute to the good old USA.
Sitting on a curb and watching the entourage come up a hill – the screeching of sirens and beeping of horns and a cadre of fire trucks, antique ones at that, announcing the start of yet another great parade, with crowds of people pumped for a show on a warm June night – a bit of nostalgia must have washed over me, because I could not keep from shedding a few tears.
I hadn’t been to my adopted hometown’s parade for more than a decade, so I was surprised to see how all-encompassing the effort was. Beauty queens, businesses, clowns, charitable organizations, politicos, recreational groups and more from far and wide all got into the act.
Among units were floats bearing royalty from East Bethel and Coon Rapids Snowflake Days (apologies for leaving groups out). Among area bands, St. Francis, Blaine and Anoka marching bands smartly stepped to today’s more sophisticated and intricate street beats of snare drums, giving the audience a highly rhythmic sound show.
The Spring Lake Park Lions Club is to be commended for its original float. It wasn’t the float so much as what the Lions were doing on the float. They were cooking up pancakes to tie in with their popular pancake breakfasts. Some lucky parade viewers received samples.
Float people, young and old, tossed pieces of candy to the masses, kids of all ages holding their arms out for more. And not just candy. One group tossed beads to the crowd. Goldie Gopher zoomed through the crowd on a Segway-type vehicle, while his University of Minnesota “Gopherettes” handed out water bottles.
The Powder Puff clown women, some in mini-vehicles, jazzed up the display. Unicyclists, motorcyclists, sparkling floats, flag and baton-twirling beauties and a whole lot more made for a fine spectacle. I couldn’t tell who was having more fun. The people in the parade or the parade watchers. Perhaps, it was all the parades I marched in for four years when I was in high school in Superior, Wis., that brought on a surge of raw emotion.
We had ragged purple and white uniforms back then. We stuffed them with wool underclothing to ward off the fall, nippy air (think musical Michelin Man) when we marched for homecoming or, ye gods!, when we marched in nearly below zero weather in Duluth’s Christmas City of the North Parade.
But we didn’t mind. We were so proud of our band – the Marching 100 – we called ourselves. We were proud of the music we created together and, yes, even of our ragtag uniforms. I recall executing street beats for hours and miles on my snare drum that wore a huge black-and-blue mark into the side of my upper thigh. (I still have nightmares that we’re getting set to march in a parade and I can’t find my white, leather drum strap. How sick is that?) But what fun we had.
My melancholy outburst the other night might also have been a throwback to the olden days in Superior. The town really knew how to throw a parade. I recall a lot of horses and antique cars in addition to the usual rah-rah-sis-boom-bah, all-American fare. The whole town, it seems, would turn out.
So thank you Fridley, other Anoka County communities and surrounding areas for the extravaganza-of-a-parade the other night. You really touched the inner depths of my heart. We left a few minutes early amid a sea of smiling faces.