One of the greatest delights in small-town Minnesota are summer festivals. Every town has one. If you wanted, you could attend one every week of the summer. These festivals often feature a special 5K race, a craft fair with all kinds of food stalls, and an evening parade. Since I was in marching band back in high school, I played my flute in all the local parades.
This past weekend was Wannigan Days–a particularly special event, as it features not one town, but two! Every year, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin teams up with Taylors Falls, Minnesota. The towns exist in different states, on opposite sides of the St. Croix River. The multi-state participation, in addition to the gorgeous scenery, makes for a memorable time!
The thing about small town parades is that they’re SO small-town. Elected royalty from all the local communities dress up, smile, and wave on their platformed floats. Businesses and organizations make appearances, tossing frisbees into crowds and handing out magnets. Political candidates smile and wave, slapping “VOTE FOR ME” stickers on audience members. Marching bands play patriotic anthems that are slightly off-key. The local football team blasts kids with super-soakers. Finally, all the fire trucks from the surrounding towns steamroll by, signaling the conclusion of another year’s show.
My mother is a member of the Falls Chamber of Commerce, an organization that strives to unify the communities and promote local businesses. Every year, they have a float in the Wannigan Days Parade. This year, they were relatively short-staffed and I was enlisted to help.
The parade was relatively short–ten blocks down the main street of St. Croix Falls, cross the bridge over the river to get to Minnesota, and four blocks through Taylors Falls.
My job was simple: Throw candy. One of the prominent chamber members bought $250 of treats, so I was free to lavish it on all the happy children in the crowd. It was an easy task. All I had to do was smile and toss handfulls of goodies to everyone under the age of fifteen. As I was going to sleep last night, all I could think about was how happy the kids were. They line up along the curb with bags in their little hands, waiting. Barely able to contain themselves, they bounce up and down. Their little eyes absolutely glow. Sometimes, I teased them. “You want candy?” I asked. “I don’t know if you’re excited enough!!” Of course, this only made them squirm more.
Just imagining their faces makes me smile.
I remember being one of those kids. When you’re little, you wait ALL SUMMER for parades. When they finally come, you take your position on the edge of the street and are like, “THIS IS MY MOMENT!!!” My brothers and I were ruthless. We would dive-bomb and shove each other out of the way just for a little piece of candy. When it was all over, we would spread our bounty on the carpet at home, count them up, and make trades to get rid of the varieties we didn’t like.
These events hold a special place in my heart and I loved every second of being part of them again. As my old marching band teacher always said way back when: “It’s a great day for a parade!”