Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christmas Parade

The Fredericksburg Jaycees have been putting on a Christmas parade on the first Saturday in December for the past twenty years, and my husband and I have gone to every one. We remember our first few parades, which were heavy on the fire trucks and antique (and not so antique) cars, and light on just about everything else. For us New Yorkers, we’ve always loved the small-town feel of the parade: the homemade floats, the marching bands and baton twirling groups, the Brownies dressed as elves or candy canes or Christmas presents, the pickups stuffed with 20 Cub Scouts and a Christmas tree, the caravan of convertibles chauffeuring the beauty pageant winners (Big Miss, Teen Miss, Young Miss, Little Miss, Baby Miss, Fetal Miss) the horses (with pooper scoopers right behind), and winding up with Santa on his sleigh. Like the Fredericksburg Fair, it seems like a throwback to a bygone era, even though parade attendance, like the community, has been growing every year. Now it’s gotten so that people stake out their viewing spots hours in advance of the parade, and the sidewalks are so crowded by parade time that it’s a struggle just to move down the street. Nonetheless, regardless of the weather (and it has been painfully cold many years), we bundle up and take our place with the crowd to watch the 2-hour parade. In the early years of the parade, we were just spectators, but before long, the kids were involved with scouts or marching band, so there were quite a few years when they marched in the parade while we watched. And there were even a couple of years when we joined the parade with our church group, dressed in costumes, carrying our banner, singing holiday songs.

But this year, in addition to all of the magical cheesiness that is the parade’s tradition, we got an extra special little Christmas bonus. The parade route encompasses all of Caroline Street’s commercial district, and every year, we’ve seen all of the folks who live in apartments above the stores watching the parade go by while perched in their open windows, enjoying a perfect view from the warmth and comfort of their living rooms, sipping their Christmas cheer, munching their holiday snacks, waving to the little people below. And I envied them, those bastards. But this year, you could say (and we did) that a Christmas miracle happened: an email invitation on the morning of the parade from a friend who just recently moved into one of those same upstairs-on-Caroline-Street apartments, to watch the parade from her window. So for the first time, we gave up our cold seat on the stone wall on Amelia Street for the comfort and joy (comfort and joy) of our friend’s apartment. And yes, there were holiday snacks, and Christmas cheer, and waving to the little people below. I couldn’t have been happier if I had been in the reviewing stand in front of Macy’s at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. So thank you to my friend for her lovely offer...may her days be merry and bright.

Staging starts a couple of hours before parade time, when the streets are blocked off and lower Caroline Street is filled with floats in various stages of preparation.

And the people start staking out their places even earlier than that, with families often getting into position hours ahead of time.

The theme this year was an old favorite, "A Colonial Christmas." We give points to groups that actually stick to the theme, like this one. Taking pictures in the dark with my small digital camera can't really do these floats justice, but this one had some sort of colonial holiday scene with costumed villagers.

I'm always disappointed by the groups that disregard the theme. Churches are the worst offenders--they often have Nativity scenes regardless of the theme. Well, there was one church that did a manger scene with live animals, so I have to give a thumbs up for that, theme or no theme. And this one of the giant red and white swirled cow (sponsored by Turkey Hill ice cream), which wasn't colonial, but come on, do you see the size of this thing? It's practically up to the second story windows!

And here is my favorite photo of the night: the golden glow of our little window on the world.

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