My grandsons missed the East Ridge Christmas parade the other week because they had to go do some other important stuff with their mom and soon-to-be step-father. Needless to say they were very disappointed, especially James, the youngest.
Yesterday, my bride announced that James wanted to go see the Red Bank Christmas Parade. Being the curmudgeon that I am, my knee-jerk answer was NO, not going to happen. I’m a Pioneer! I go to my city’s Christmas Parade. I try to keep the holidays in perspective and keep the celebration down to a dull roar. And besides, the SEC Championship game came on at 4 p.m., conflicting with the Red Bank festivities which started at 5 p.m.
Anyone who knows the dynamic of how things work at Casa de Cook on Marlboro Avenue knows the resident decision maker in the household surely ain’t me … no, it’s the bride in tandem with the youngest grandson. I really never had a chance on this one and truth be told, my earlier objection was more symbolic than anything. After all, I have a reputation to uphold as a grumpy, old, fossil who initially says NO to about everything.
So, getting a late start (4:45) off we go to Red Bank, our neighbor to the north, satellite city to Nooga just like East Ridge. I get off Hwy 27 at the first Red Bank exit and proceeded up Dayton Boulevard. I didn’t know where the parade started and was concerned about how rough the landing was going to be, you know, traffic snarls and detours and such.
Long story short, the local constabulary had the traffic detoured conveniently one block off the main drag. Traffic was heavy but not unreasonable. We found a parking spot with little problem just two blocks from the parade’s terminus. This is all very welcome news because the bride and James do not like to be inconvenienced. No sir.
We trudged up to Dayton Boulevard in time to see two fire trucks (no lights, no sirens) turn off the road at the end of the route. Political figures must have led the parade because I waived at Bo Watson and shook hands with our Congressman as I walked to the corner.
The Shriners, Cub Scouts, twirlers and dance teams were in the parade. There were a couple of cool, antique cars and some kid on a decrepit mini-bike with a 3-foot strand of Christmas lights strung along the frame. Conspicuously absent were the emergency vehicles _ sirens and lights activated _ that I now associate with Christmas parades because of my years attending the East Ridge event.
Then, at the end of the line, came the Big Guy, Santa Claus. Guess what mode of conveyance the Man in the Red Flannel Suit was using? No less than a horse-drawn wagon. It was remarkable. Where was the fire engine? Where were the police motorcycle out-riders? I didn’t hear any sirens. No, I heard Christmas carols coming from somewhere.
The Big Guy got out of his carriage with Mrs. Claus and was greeted by children, who escorted him over to the adjacent park for pictures. There were Christmas lights strung up and little tents with vendors selling seasonal stuff. People bought some hot chocolate and hot dogs and sat down at picnic tables and were talking. No sirens or nothing!
There was a smallish pavilion with a seven-foot-tall live tree that was lighted. A young woman invited children up to sit down with her and sing Christmas carols. The scale of this event was just about perfect.
All this happened just around dusk and I was fearful we were going to be in total darkness in a matter of moments. But, no, suddenly it was getting lighter. The park had some tennis courts and the organizers turned on some lights which illuminated the area just right.
The bride turned to me and said, “why can’t we have a parade like this one?”
I told her that no, East Ridge is laid out all wrong. It’s got a linear business district with no place to turn off of for people to gather and fellowship with neighbors.
“Wrong,” said the bride. “What about turning off on Tombras, and we’ve got Pioneer Frontier right there. We could do something like this.”
Maybe she had something here. Yeah, and the end of the parade wouldn’t be the end of the evening … you know where the ERPD sweeps the streets with sirens blazing announcing to the masses to get off the street! Go home! It’s all over!
We could all _ or at least some of us _ converge on Pioneer Frontier and the surrounding area where we have a little pavilion (perfect for a picture with Santa) and some rare green space in East Ridge. Vendors could set up on the drive into the old McBrien School. People could linger and talk, sing a Christmas Carol, maybe.
This Thursday, perhaps, the City will hand out the awards for the East Ridge Christmas Parade. I don’t know what other business the Council will conduct, but it might be a perfect time to talk about maybe re-thinking how Our City does its parading.
I know it’s radical. Hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? But, you know what, it could be better. Maybe next year the parade could do with a little less blazing lights and sirens from emergency vehicles and a little more mistletoe and holly. Maybe Santa could be brought into the city not on the top of a fire wagon but in a horse-drawn wagon.
And just maybe, the entire parade could conclude _ like it once did _ with the lighting of the beautiful fir tree that soars over our Blue Star Memorial in front of Pioneer Frontier.