Ah, the community parade. (Insert yawn here.)
If there is a more boring event on the planet -- at least one that doesn't involve either a golf ball or Ryan Seacrest as host -- I'm currently not aware of it. As a result, over the years I've developed my own individual code of conduct regarding parades. And Personal Parade Rule No. 1 is, and always has been, "The only good parade is a canceled parade."
Seriously, people. Friends don't let friends attend parades. Truth be told, friends shouldn't even let enemies attend such events, as it could easily fall under one of the inhumane-treatment articles of the Geneva Conventions. Indeed, the ONLY legitimate reasons to attend a parade are:
* An immediate family member is in the parade, ideally as grand marshal.
* An immediate family member has been abducted, and the kidnappers say they'll execute said member unless you attend the parade. (Still, I recommend asking for proof -- like they mail you a finger or something -- before agreeing to their terms.)
* Parade entries are throwing brand new Apple iPads to the crowd.
* The zombie apocalypse has occurred, and the hoards of undead have stumbled upon one of the hapless marching bands along the parade route. (Now THAT'S entertainment.)
There is, of course, one notable exception to the above rule -- the annual Bicknell International Film Festival parade in Southern Utah. At a dizzying 55 mph, it's advertised as "The World's Fastest Parade." And to my way of thinking, if there isn't a high probability of an airbag deployment in the event one of your entries rear-ends another, your parade is moving far too slowly.
But after hearing about this year's Fourth of July parade in Huntsville, it may be time to rethink Personal Parade Rule No. 1. Why? Because finally, something interesting actually happened at a parade.
According to an article in Friday's Standard-Examiner, the July 4th parade in this small Ogden Valley hamlet included an entry that got some folks' noses out of joint. It featured a white limousine surrounded by people dressed as Secret Service agents, with someone in a Barack Obama mask. A sign on the side of the limo read "Huntsville Welcomes The Obama Farewell Tour?"
Now, I'm not defending this particular entry, per se. And I'm not necessarily saying it didn't cross the line. What I am saying is that there is just a touch of irony in the idea that on the very day we celebrate the amazing freedoms we have in this country -- including the freedom of expression -- that some would be calling to curtail that freedom because they found an idea personally offensive.
Offensive? What I find offensive is people who put no more thought into a parade entry than to hitch up the ski boat to the F-350, crank up Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" on the stereo, and cruise down the parade route with family and friends sitting in the back.
At least the sponsor of this anti-Obama entry put some thought into it and gave folks something to talk about. And it is exactly this sort of edgy, outside-the-box entry that parades need to become relevant again.
Sadly, the American parade has become its own worst enemy. Safe. Predictable. Boring.
Listen, parades jumped the shark the day somebody decided to start throwing candy in a desperate attempt to keep children's attention.
Well, it's not working. Because when you've seen one flatbed full of square dancers, you've seen them all. Plus which, the day they decide to ban politicians from waving to crowds from the back seats of convertibles is the day I join you in insisting regular folks don't get to use parade entries to poke fun at their elected officials.
For their part, city officials seemed genuinely blindsided by both the entry and its controversy.
"It's like Mayberry here," Huntsville mayor Jim Truett told the Standard-Examiner. "We don't inspect them first; they just show up the day of the parade, get in line and go."
Hmmm, so let me get this straight ... The stringent process for entering the Huntsville Independence Day Parade is:
1. Show up the day of the parade.
2. Get in line.
That's it? Good to know. Because I'm already formulating an entry for next year's parade, which most likely will involve either:
A) An open-air, mobile butcher shop demonstrating how to slaughter a cow. (Nice additional touch: The butcher throws bits of entrails to the kiddies); or
B) A float spotlighting pole- and chair-dancing athletes from local fitness studios. (I doubt we'd have them throwing anything to the crowd, but spectators may feel the urge to shove dollar bills in the crepe paper folds of the float.)
Either one of these entries would be a highly entertaining addition to any parade route.
At least until the air bag deploys.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Which marching band members would be safest during a brain-eating zombie attack? A) The trombonists; B) The scantily clad, flag-waving color guard; C) All of 'em. Submit your answer to Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.