Monday, December 12, 2005

The Christmas Parade: 2000

Cindy Lou Who & Katie (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." ~ Dr. Seuss
Columbus, Mississippi is a small Southern town in the tradition of small Southern towns. It's smaller than Jackson and Tupelo but larger than Starksville, West Point and the tiny towns in between. Almost every Southern town has a Christmas parade; it's tradition. Schools and businesses enter with floats, bands, decorated trucks, riding clubs; actually almost anyone can enter. The parade takes place the first Monday night in December and even though it may have been 65 degrees on Sunday and is expected to be hotter than that on Tuesday, it seems that on the Monday of the Christmas parade, the weather cooperates and it is cold or at least cooler and not tropical. Of course, every year Santa shows up at the rear end of the parade, riding in the towns largest hook and ladder truck with sirens pulsating and Santa yelling "HO, HO, HO! Merry Christmas!" while throwing candy canes to the crowds lining the streets.

When Nyssa was little we would drive on down to Main Street; yes the old Route 82 through town was the "Main Street". We parked and walked several blocks to find a place to stand and wait for the bands and floats. In a small Southern town, a parade is a big event, maybe "the" big event of the season at least next to the Pig Fest, but that was held in October. She loved it. All the kids loved the parade and I often wondered why. We aren't talking about Rose Parade standards here. The bands were local high school bands, none of whom had ever won a significant competition musically and the marching seemed difficult at times too. They did play Christmas carols though; well except for that one time when one band started up with a rousing rendition of "We are the Champions".

The riding clubs didn't show up with fancy matching horses and satin sequined riding outfits. The horses were not adorned with flowers or jeweled harness. If you had a horse and showed up, you were riding with the others who showed up to ride. Plain saddles and bridles and clothing appropriate for the weather. Really cold years saw overalls and ski jackets, while moderate weather just brought the jeans and sweatshirt crowd.

And the floats, what can you say about the floats. Some would be classified as simply convertible cars with girls riding in the back; crowns on their heads, formal gowns and sashes across their chest with words like "Miss Hospitality Columbus" or "Miss MUW"; occasionally a high school would dust off their homecoming court and stick them in a car. Cheerleading squad floats would go by; hay on a trailer pulled by a truck with the cheerleaders holding up signs that read "Go Patriots" or "Go Eagles". Almost all floats here are pulled by trucks. Business floats tended to be even more boring, but the employees riding did throw candy to the crowd so it wasn't a total loss.

Nyssa's high school student council decided to submit a float the year she was a freshman. All the student council members worked on the float and were to ride as well. They decided to do a theme, yes an actual theme: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". With the guidance of their teacher-sponsor they set about the task to build Whoville on the back of a flatbed trailer. This was a moderately sized trailer with a railing at the backend. A Christmas tree was decorated and placed in the center. Backgrounds of the Whoville village were painted and placed and of course hay bales were strategically placed for seating. Fake snow was piled in small drifts, although this would later prove to be a mistake as it blew everywhere on the ride down Main Street. A boombox played the "Whoville Christmas Song".

All that was left was the cast of characters. Most of the student council members would ride on the float in their street clothes. Mrs. L, the sponsor was to be the Grinch. She really outdid herself that night. She really was GREEN, face and hands painted with the fake Santa outfit and all. They used someone's dachshund with little antler on its head for his sidekick dog. Nyssa was drafted to be Cindy Lou Who. She tells me this two days before the parade. I found flannel pink pajamas with little yellow ducks on them, big fuzzy pink slippers with yellow stars and we did up her hair. It really is all hers. We had to fashion a long wire from a coat hanger to put under her hair like a head band and to go through the braid making it stand up on top of her head. It really is standing by itself in the picture although Katie looks like she is holding it up. Of course Teddy went as her prop.

The night of the parade it was cold, unusually cold even for the Christmas parade. I had to add two sets of thermal underwear under the pj's so she could keep warm and she put mittens on too. The truck originally scheduled to pull the trailer was not large enough so a replacement had to be found at the last minute; fortunately in a town like this that is not difficult. The parade went off without a hitch, except for the aforementioned fake snow blowing off the back of the truck all the way down Main Street. Nyssa said the people along the road shouted to her and knew she was Cindy Lou Who and that made her feel good. She eventually thawed out and never came down with pneumonia; and that made me feel good.

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