I’m accustomed to seeing parades begin with an American Legion color guard, bearing the Stars & Stripes along with the Colorado flag and maybe a couple of other flags appropriate to the occasion.
I’m not, however, accustomed to the color guard being followed by a ten-foot-tall woman.
I understand that Salida is home to a number of community-minded circus performers who collectively call themselves The Salida Circus. In fact, the Circus will be holding its annual summer camp at the Boys & Girls Club at St. Joseph’s Church — with the first camp scheduled for June 25 through 29, and another from July 23 through 27.
“Since February 2007, the Salida Circus has kept busy performing at events throughout Colorado, New Mexico, California and even Central America!” says the Circus website.
Next float, as I recall, was the official FIBArk “Past Commodores” float — a half-dozen people in Commodore hats, and a roughly painted cardboard sign dangling from a small dark gray trailer, inciting the spectator to do “Whatever Floats Your Boat.”
The five-day FIBArk festival was, of course, the primary impetus behind the Saturday parade. The festival in turn celebrates an annual kayak race down the Arkansas River that started in 1949 — and the festival has since become one of the main reasons the City of Salida still shows up on Colorado maps, from what I can tell. Not many events can draw people together in a such an enthusiastic manner that they decide to line the sidewalks of their town at the very same hour on a sunny Saturday to watch their neighbors walk down the street in funny, handmade costumes. FIBArk is such an event.
At their best, parades — like any good performance art — can make us laugh, and cry; can even make us think about our place in the universe. The FIBArk parade was focused mainly on the former emotion: laughter.
Even Jesus seemed in good spirits, despite the cross he was bearing.
But of course, every parade has its painful moments…
…as well as its rewards…
I’m not a trained demographer, but I would estimate that approximately 53 percent of the participants in last Saturday’s parade belonged a couple of regional Shriner organizations, the Pueblo-based Al Kaly Shriners and the Denver-based El Jebel Shriners. These fellows apparently love riding in parades almost as they love supporting children’s hospitals, and they showed up in just about every conceivable form of Shiner transportation, from motorcycles, to luxury cars, to miniature Model Ts, to miniature Corvettes, to miniature 1930s Roadsters, to horseback, to a fourteen-man rolling bandstand.
And a good number of the Shriners were walking the parade route on foot, dressed as clowns. I suppose if you spend a lot of volunteer time visiting sick children in hospitals, it’s natural to want to appear as a clown rather than as, say, a senior citizen wearing a business suit and a fez.
You might even want to appear as a clown cowboy who plays guitar and rides a tricycle dressed up as a horse.
The overwhelming support of the FIBArk parade by regional Shiner groups, however, lent the parade a distinctly “male” atmosphere. Not that I have anything against males; I happen to be one myself. Still, this was the first time I witnessed a parade with such a preponderance of balding heads and such a relative shortage of skirts and lipstick.
The Shriners’ color guard was perhaps the most interesting entry in the parade. The four flag bearers were carrying, respectively, an American flag, a Canadian flag, a Mexican flag, and a Colorado flag.
In these days of political discord, when impassioned controversy swirls around the issue of “undocumented immigrants” — or, if you prefer, “illegal aliens” — I found it refreshing to see a group of older men carrying the U.S. flag and the Mexican flag side-by-side.
The final float in the parade was the official FIBArk Subaru. Subaru is one of the key sponsors of the entire five-day boating-&-beer-drinking-&-music-&-fun event, which might strike one as a bit odd, if one considers the fact that Subaru has no car dealership in Salida. The parade’s forest green Legacy station wagon was cleverly decorated with what appeared to be a kayaker disappearing into the river, (with only his paddle held above the waves,) and in the background, a townscape of old brick buildings full of art galleries, bars and bike shops. (Actually, I’m only guessing at the businesses occupying the brick buildings; they could just as easily have been restaurants, bakeries, real estate offices and antique shops.)
A young lady was protruding through the Subaru’s sunroof, smiling and waving to the crowd in a somewhat distracted manner. Her distraction no doubt resulted from the fact that she was also videotaping the crowd with her iPhone.
And then the parade was over, and everyone — and I do mean everyone — began walking down F Street towards the river, where the rest of the Saturday activities would be shortly taking place.
Well, wait; I take that back; not everyone started heading for the park. On the corner of First and F Streets, a rather tall and rather good-looking gentleman was holding up a red, white and blue sign bearing the name of one of this year’s regional political candidates: Dagna Van Der Jagt. After snapping a few photos of the small crowd that had gathered on the corner, I came to realize that the tallish blonde woman smiling and answering questions must be Ms. Van Der Jagt, Republican candidate for the 11th Judicial District, challenging incumbent District Attorney Thom LeDoux. I didn’t recall seeing Ms. Van Der Jagt in the parade; I had, however, seen a vehicle representing Thom LeDoux, though I didn’t notice if Mr. LeDoux himself had been a parade participant.
I assumed that the tall gentleman holding the sign was Ms. Van Der Jagt’s supportive husband, and the attractive children nearby would then be Ms. Van Der Jagt’s children?
Mental note to self: the District Attorney race would make a good subject for a future article in the Salida Citizen…
But the FIBArk beer tent in Riverside Park was calling my name, and my camera was full of photos — and politics would simply have to wait until we were done celebrating boats, beer and overly loud music.