It’s County Fair season and the time of the year when many small communities throw a party in honor of some historical, agricultural or commercial claim to fame; hence a succession of berry festivals, Pioneer Days and okra feeds. All of these occasions, of course, must be launched with a parade.
Since the events themselves are all about tradition, it’s a good idea not to mess too much with the traditional parade fare. For example, you’ve got to have the loveliest young local women waving from open cars. This tradition goes back, I think, to ancient times when each year’s crop of virgins would be escorted to the volcano or cenote as part of a lobbying effort for another fruitful year. Along the way they would throw out treats, either as a representation of Mother Nature bestowing her generosity or as small bribes to anyone they might induce to step forward and get them out of there before they reached the sacred sacrificial platform. This custom continued even long after the sacrifices were all but eliminated, with local businesses throwing out candy in an effort to curry goodwill by encouraging the children of the community to eat things found on the road.
Gross, yes, but who wants to mess with tradition? According to Cathy in the Wright, there are some who just don’t get it:
This year, the Cokato Corn Carnival Committee made the executive decision that there would be NO CANDY allowed in the parade.
A heartfelt letter to the editor, from said CCCC, explained that safety concerns were behind the measure. After receiving complaints, apparently about the velocity of sugary booty being hurled at parade-goers, the committee requested last year that all parade entrants who wanted to toss candy, do so by having volunteers walk along the curbs and gently distribute treats to all the little urchins lining the street. But, alas, some renegade scofflaw had the nerve to chuck candy from a moving float and therefore (say it with me) FOR THE CHILDREN, the safety of whom is surely squeezed in the middle of that cleanliness/godliness bond, no candy.
General discontent was widespread, and I was already looking forward to a round of terse Letters to the Editor in the next few weeks denouncing the Communist take-over of this annual event. But now I’m positively exploding with anticipation. A local landscaping company bucked authority and threw the forbidden Tootsie Rolls from their float.
The whispers and murmers rolled down Broadway Avenue. Some people cheered, some clapped, and some wondered when Wright County’s finest were going to descend on the outlaws. But overall, I think most people were ready to give the landscapers a standing ovation. Personally, I’m thinking of ripping out the grass in my front yard just so I can hire them to come replace it.
Apparently the annual carnage of broken childish bodies bleeding on the Norman Rockwell streets of our fair communities (which has, nevertheless, been successfully hushed up) has spurred people on to DO SOMETHING. Actually, it reminds me of the first parade I ever went to. I was about to enter kindergarten and we had moved back to my parents’ small hometown. A couple of my cousins who were my age were riding on one of the floats and they told me in advance that they’d be sure to throw some candy to me. As we got to the parade route, however, my father expressly forbid my little brother and I from running out into the street for candy.
Oh, the agony, as we stood on the curb, quivering, as float after float passed by, flurries of candy being eagerly snatched out of the air and off the ground before it could get to us. Finally, the float with my cousins came by, and a handful of promised bounty was cast in our direction, only to fall short just two and one half strides in front of me. My brother and I completely forgot ourselves and our obedience. We lunged for the windfall; one big step, an outstretched hand, and — “STOP!” My father’s command yanked us back as surely as if we wore barbed-wire choke-chains. I can still see the candy on the asphalt — a butterscotch lozenge (which I didn’t like anyway), a couple of sourballs (green and yellow) and a Bit-O-Honey — and the grubby hands of the kids around us as they snatched up what had been promised to ME. But I’m not bitter or scarred, not me.