There are many reasons to love a parade, here’s two

“I love a parade, The tramping of feet; I love ever beat; I hear of a drum. I love a parade.” —Broadway singer Harry Richman

Have you ever wondered how parades got started? Things like who decided caravanning through a crowd of people watching everyone go by while smiling and waving at each other is so popular? It’s crossed my mind, and while I may not have all the answers, I think I’ve picked up a couple of clues along the way.

The Christmas parade in Center, Texas, last Saturday night was outstanding, an inspiring kickoff for the season in which we were honored to provide transportation for the Grand Marshal, Dr. Jheri-Lynn McSwain.

“We” being me and “Miss Vicky,” my 1955 Ford Crown Victoria.

Dr. Jheri-Lynn McSwain, Grand Marshal of the Center, Texas, Christmas parade. — photo courtesy of J.J. Ford, Shelby County Today


I confess, I love a parade. Loved watching them as a kid, but that love affair flame was fanned during high school and college band years marching in Christmas parades, homecoming parades, festival parades, and even a few college bowl game parades. Add to that, countless parades for years of car club activities and providing classic cars for grand marshals, pageant participants, dignitaries, elected officials, and yes—I do love a parade.

Early clues about some aspects of fascination for them came years ago via my children. The event was a Gilmer, Texas, Yamboree parade, and the time was when my kids were, well, still kids.

“What kind of parade is this,” asked daughter Robin. “It’s the Yamboree parade,” I answered. “What’s a Yamboree?” Explaining that it’s a festival to celebrate sweet potatoes prompted the obvious next question, “Why do they have a parade for sweet potatoes?”

“It was a primary crop here in the 1930s when the festival began, and everybody just loves a parade to celebrate,” I replied trying to hold my own with my daughter in a game 20 questions.

“Who’s riding with us,” was next? “I’m not sure,” I said. “Perhaps a pretty girl, a Yamboree princess, the queen, somebody like that.”

“See, Lee,” Robin told her brother. “That’s why daddy sent mommy to take pictures of the parade instead of coming with us.”

While sucking wind searching for a suitable response, I was saved by the parade. “Mr. Aldridge, our mayor will be riding with you,” I was informed. The parade was ready. Bands were tuning up. Clowns were conducting their own little parade much to the delight of the kids. Last minute touchups were being performed on floats. Sirens were being tested.

“I know why they paint police cars different colors and put sirens on them,” my son, Lee, offered. “Why,” I asked. “So, they can be in parades. You’ve got to look funny and make lots of noise to be in parades.”

The mayor arrived, we were in the car, and the parade was almost underway when Lee offered his statement from the back seat, “I thought you said we would have a pretty girl riding with us.”

“I said we might,” I replied, intending to leave the conversation right there. However, his honor the mayor looked  back over the seat, smiled at my kids and asked, “Don’t you just love a parade?”

“Yes sir,” Lee said. “Parades are full of pretty girls, clowns and funny people making lots of noise.”

“Well, I might fit into a couple of those categories,” he graciously laughed.

The conversation was concluding, the cacophony was growing, and the mayor was smiling and waving a few minutes later when the parade momentarily came to a halt where a group of young boys was standing just inches from the car smiling and waving back. As the procession started moving again, one of the boys hollered, “Hey mister, where’s the pretty girls.”

Everyone loves a parade for their own reasons. At least two were duly noted that day: pretty girls and sweet potatoes.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune.


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