The first parade in which I was an active participant, so far as I can remember, was the Afton Fourth of July parade.
This was years ago. My mother and step-father held a party each year, and somewhere along the line it became tradition to name one of the partygoers Miss Lake Kilgore, an honor that shared its name with the trout- and weed-filled pond in our front yard.
It was quite prestigious.
The winner's main qualification was that she be older than the 1951 Ford that served as her parade ride.
More specifically, the official competition rules required that all of the contestant's "major body parts" be older than the car.
It was pretty classy, too.
After being named, the winner would use a fishing pole to dunk a tea bag into the pond while reciting a motto I choose not to repeat here. Suffice it to say it was not complimentary to the Queen.
I assume it was the Queen of England that was the target of the ceremony. Although I suppose there could have been some animosity toward Freddie Mercury I just wasn't picking up on.
My mom was the first Miss Lake Kilgore, and over the years the position accumulated various accoutrements. Someone stuck plastic jewels on a toilet plunger and a cheap shower curtain to create a cape and scepter.
Actually, I guess that's about it, accessory-wise.
As an official (or, official-ish) member of the Queen's guard, I rode one year in the back of an antique fire truck and sprayed the crowd with a squirt gun. We threw water balloons, too. I remember one hitting an elderly woman. She laughed, I think, but I still felt bad.
I've had other significant parade experiences. I went to college in New Orleans, after all, where parades are practically a way of life. But as far as participation goes, I honestly thought the end of those parties was the end of my parade career. At least as far as I thought about my parade career as an actual thing. Which, if I'm honest, I didn't.
Now, though, I've found myself drawn back in.
As a member of the Farmington Rotary, I've walked in the last several Dew Days parades. Along with the Rosemount Rotary I've been there for Leprechaun Days. I've walked in heat and humidity and, most recently, in a sudden rain on a day when jeans and windbreakers were a more appropriate clothing choice than shorts and t-shirts.
I'm not sure exactly what happened at Saturday's Leprechaun Days parade. Maybe someone at the front of the line got a look at a weather radar. Whatever the reason, it might have been the fastest parade in recorded history. I found myself jogging several times to catch up to my float, and we still could barely keep pace with the groups ahead of us.
I've handed out flyers promoting events and I've handed out can coozies.
You know how excited kids get for candy at parades? Adults are pretty much the same way for coozies. I don't pretend to understand it, but cylinders of cheap foam have an unusual pull on the adult mind. And if those coozies are shaped as boots, as they have been some years to promote our club's country music festival? Well, just put them down quickly and back away lest you lose a hand.
I still have a lot to learn about being a parade participant. After Saturday, for example, I think I might start at least peeking at the weather before I leave the house. I'm getting there, though.
Next stop, Mardi Gras.