“Okay kids,” I said. “What’s the Number One rule when attending a parade?”

My wife said, “Don’t get run over by a fire truck.”

I tried not to look irritated. She’s a good woman, but a little obsessive about our grandchildren’s safety, and we did have all five of them with us.

Number Two said, “Papa gets all the Smarties,” and the other four all nodded agreement.

Yes. I love those kids.

Granted, it did take a little training, but by now even Number 5, at the age of six, dutifully fills my lap with Smarties tossed from parade floats. He can keep the Tootsie rolls and mini candy bars, and he can keep all he wants of those taffy type things that people throw when they want to look generous without spending much money. But the Smarties…the Smarties are mine.

As I sat in a camp chair on a shady street corner one morning to join a nearby town in celebrating “Kid’s Day!”, I decided I probably needed to get out more. I’m more or less an expert about how things work in small towns, but I’m not up to date when it comes to the big places. For instance, in three years it will be the 400th anniversary of the founding of New York.  That’s the sort of thing that should be celebrated. I wonder whether they plan to have a parade. Will the local fire department, the co-op, a hair salon and a couple of insurance agencies lead a parade of antique tractors driven by antique farmers?

For our parade, many of the antique tractors are driven into town. With some quick research, I discovered that the closest farm to Manhattan is at the end of Long Island, 86 miles away. Do you have any idea how long it would take to drive a 1954 Minneapolis Moline Z 86 miles?   You couldn’t even save time by going cross country, because in my experience, driving one of those babies could get you stuck on a damp lawn.

The scale of the giveaway stuff might change. If the Farmer’s Co-op throws mini–Tootsie Rolls, what would the Merrill Lynch float throw – chocolate croissants?

Of course, they might not be chucking food or candy. The past few years, I’ve noticed a trend to quality over quantity. Instead of handfuls of taffy, some businesses throw a few more valuable items, like can coolers or mini frisbees. At the most recent parade, Number Three corralled a very nice ball, which he then handed to a little girl standing next to him. That earned him a sincere round of applause from the whole side of the street, because the gesture had to go against every instinct of his twelve-year-old boy heart. But he’s kind of a tender soul so I admit, while I was very pleased, I wasn’t surprised.

This does open possibilities. If a small-town fire department can give away frisbees, I’m thinking the parade floats in Manhattan could be flinging stock certificates and deeds to high-rise apartments.

I’m aware of the big doings on Thanksgiving with the giant floating animals, but beyond that, how much do those people know about parades? I’d willingly offer my expertise if they needed some advice.

All I’d ask would be a discount on Smarties. I can’t count on my grandchildren for everything.

Copyright 2021 Brent Olson