Monday, December 9, 2013
The main downtown street had been closed to traffic all day. This was no small matter since it is a major East - West route in this part of NE Florida. Walmart trucks rumble through all day from the distribution center East of town. Local vendors selling everything from turkey legs to "bullet bling", ammo in the colors of the season for those looking to accessorize their weaponry. Everyone was waiting for the big event of the day which was the Christmas parade set to begin at 6 pm. Florida was spared the deep freeze that had seized the rest of the country although the evening temperatures were down from the daytime high of 84. We wore jeans and sweatshirts not for the chill but in case of mosquitos. The sky was clear but there was still the smell of bar-b-que smoke in the air from the afternoon grilling. The nice weather had brought out a record crowd that sat and stood ten deep along the curbs. Soon we heard the loud blare of fire engines and the parade began. After every piece of fire fighting equipment the county owned passed by, we settled in to watch the floats. First, however, were the beauty pageant queens. We had never seen so many beauty pageant honorees in one parade. There was even a tiny princess who could barely sit up by herself on the back of the new convertible she rode in. Once, when my wife asked one of her classes in the elementary school to name the sports they liked the best, one little girl said, beauty pageants. Down here it is considered a sport and we watched all the winners pass by. Then, there were the church floats. Not much subtlety there. One local church proclaiming The Perfect Gift on the side of the truck pulling the float, had a teenage Christ on a cross. I'm pretty sure he had his feet on the ground because the two other teens guarding him with their makeshift swords were as tall as he was. He had on a sheet spattered with red paint and looked more uncomfortable than in agony. Another church had what looked like a train that was heaven bound with Jesus as the conductor. It was pulling a car load of people who had signs indicating what their previous state of sin was, i.e. I was a liar, etc. When they turned around the back of the shirt let us know that they had found the mercy of God. Church members, handing out candy and tracts, had on similar t-shirts identifying their particular sin which was overcome by the grace of God, too. I noticed onboard the train was an open space labeled, You Could Be Here. I wondered if they had a shirt big enough to list all my sins, and I knew I didn't want to wear it in a parade, if they did. Next, came the big trucks. I mean, these monsters were three stories high. They were mud boggers and truck crushers, of the kinds of trucks most of us drive. The passengers looked like they were having the most fun of anyone in the parade. Then, came the Sons of the Confederacy. They shot their guns into the air every couple hundred yards. When they were in front of us I remembered to remove my NY Yankee cap quickly before they mistook me for a Union sympathizer. Then, there was the high school band followed by lots of people riding horses and it was a good thing they were in that order. If it had been the other way around there would have been some high stepping for sure. Finally, the two hour parade was winding down or at least the parade goers were winding down and the crowd thinned out. They picked up their chairs and drove off in their golf carts even as the main event came into view. I guess they knew what was coming. There was Santa perched high atop one more fire engine, waving and shouting, Merry Christmas to all.