A Great Day for a Parade

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!”

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Downtown Taylors Falls. Taken mid-parade.

When you write young

It’s amazing to look back and see how you grow as a writer.  But more on that later.  First, a story.

One of the traditions of my high school’s marching band was giving personalized gifts to the graduating seniors at the end of the year indoor concert.  After my final season, one of my good friends bestowed upon me a notebook covered in cats.  He offered the following explanation: “We’re giving you a journal because some things don’t belong on the internet.”

Recently, I hung out with my old high school buddies.  Sitting around a bonfire reminiscing about times that we really don’t miss, the marching band senior gifts came up.  I had completely forgotten the incident.  It was one of my fellow graduates who remembered my gift and the above explanation.  How he recalled such a specific quote, I have no idea.  But I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

When you start blogging at the age of fifteen, you make some blunders.  And, often times, those blunders affect people.  Enthralled at the freedom of calling a corner of the internet my own, I was not always wise with what I shared on my blog.  (Mind you, those were back in the Blogger days.)  Although I always tried to be careful not to give names–anonymity is really important when publishing personal information–keeping my drama off the internet sometimes didn’t happen.  What’s worse… keeping that drama away from the eyes of my friends was an impossibility.

Often times, I’d turn to my blog to express myself in times of conflict with friends.  I’d vent a bit, then go on with my life.  But then my friends would find out and that’s when things got messy.

At the time, I didn’t think much of my senior gift.  In fact, I thought so little of it that I didn’t even remember it happening.  But it’s amazing what hindsight can do.  I now see that there was a bit of a barb to the gesture–that my friend was being funny, but also critical.  He didn’t like what I had to say in such a public arena and used the situation as an opportunity to get me to express myself in a more healthy, private place.  (The sad thing is, I didn’t take the hint.)

As much as I hate to admit it, that friend was right.  Four years later, I agree with his statement wholeheartedly.  Some things DON’T belong on the internet.  Self-expression is a wonderful thing, but what one sees as nothing but blowing-off-steam soon blows out of proportion.  What is meant as a personal rant suddenly becomes incredibly public.  There’s a line and, if you’re not careful, you’ll slip across without even noticing.

I’ve grown a great deal as a blogger over the years.  I wish I can say I skipped the rough patches, that all was smooth sailing, and that I never crossed the line (excuse me for all the cliches)… but that’s all a lie.  When you write young, you make mistakes.  Looking back, I regret the hurt I caused my friends.  But what’s done is done.  Anything I do now can’t change what is cemented in the past.

The only thing you can do is grow from your mistakes, watch your words and best of all, learn to love your journal just as much as you love your blog.  And never, ever, stop writing.