Well, where do I start really? I feel like the beginning doesn’t quite work in this instance, so we’ll need to travel way back in time. My first experience with parades started and ended in the heart of Independence City…Ralston, NE. (Note: that Ralston’s title of Independence City is undoubtedly self-proclaimed. It had literally nothing to do with gaining our independence from Britain.)
The Ralston 4th of July parade was something I always looked forward to as a kid. It signified the start of a fantastic day that involved hanging out with my extended family, eating, and lighting off fireworks. Eventually, as I grew into a lad, I started walking in the parade as an actor as part of the Ralston Community Theatre ensemble. Fun, but that was always much more of a chore than it was worth. After all, you’re not supposed to be wearing wool, Oliver Twist costumes in 90 degree weather. (Note: that reference happened but is not pictured.) It wasn’t until I was in middle school that a glorious idea entered into my brain (or my mother’s…not sure who actually gets credit for this one): I could enter my own float in the parade! All I had to do was decorate my golf cart and practice my waving. (Yes, I have a golf cart…and had one well before the retirement home golf cart craze.) Piece of cake.
That was also fun for a few years…and I was able to rope a number of friends into being copilots for a day.
But, it wasn’t until a two comedy cohorts began scheming to a degree that would make Andy Kaufman proud that the concept of “parading” went to a whole new level. Once my comedic partner in crime and I decided to tag team the event like Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn, we graduated into the realm of “must-see float.” (At least that’s what we told ourselves.)
We equipped the golf cart with a PA system, staged flash mobs at the grandstand (before flash mobs were a thing), and even passed out paper plates, plastic forks and toilet paper to the patrons instead of candy.
Each year we became more advanced in our comedic endeavors, even lobbying for a fake candidate for congress, a mischievous monkey in a trench coat, affectionately known as “Monkey.” I use the term lobbying loosely, as our float was meant to spoof the parade and the only lobbying we did was pass out handbills with a picture of a monkey in a trench coat on them.
Oh sure, there were a few campaign slogans like, “He guarantees a non-mudslinging campaign (But there may be some pooh throwing),” and the infamous, “If you do not like this candidate when elected, feel free to spank the monkey.” Comedy gold, no matter your age!…
…unless you’re an middle-aged chode of a congressman. He thought we were some rogue group trying to keep his entitled ass from getting re-elected. What can I say? He caught us…two teenagers trying to single-handily sabotage a congressional campaign in small-time Nebraska parade. Makes total sense. (Pictured below you’ll see one of his campaign minions and the police giving us a “talking to.” Conveniently, Dad was in the right place at the right time to snap a pic!)
Apparently, a certain congressional candidate didn’t have enough moxie to scare us, but was able to convince someone within the Ralston School District (who also thought they were important) to give us a lifetime ban from the parade. So yada, yada, yada, I have the lifetime ban letter framed and hanging on my wall. We wrote and produced a play about it, aptly titled “The Monkey For Congress.” A one night extravaganza that sold out the 100+ seat venue. (Note the photos of the climactic dance sequence.)
See…I told you going back in time would be worth it.
Well, in the years (and it has been years) since, I’ve managed to weasel myself into a parade again. The mother of all Minnesota parades…the Grand Old Day Parade in St. Paul. Now, if you’re worried about my current level of parade skills, no need. I put to bed any concerns about my television character being able to handle the “parade pressure.”
(The giant heads were part of our float…local weathermen. The umbrella shot is me doing my best Michael Jackson impersonation.)
And while it seems like I would have been saying, “I love a parade,” at the end of the 2.5 mile walk, I returned to my car to find this:
Perhaps I should avoid parades from now on…