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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Line up for a parade this summer

I’ve never liked waiting in line.
My lack of patience shows as my weight shifts from leg to leg, in my heavy puffs of air and nervous looks at the clock.
It might have started when I was a Girl Scout in the late 1970s. Aside from all the camping and crafting and other shenanigans, we always marched in Euclid’s parade on Memorial Day.
Marching involved our full uniforms — lots of green and white knee socks.
It also meant tons of walking.
I know I was there, because there are pictures of me holding flags and banners and even waving.
But I don’t remember much other than standing in line.
It stands out because it involved lots of standing. Hours of standing. In one place. Because we were in line. And we couldn’t move. Because we might not find the right spot again.
Thus, those experiences left me with one thought when I hear the word “parade.”
When I was asked a few weeks ago if I would serve as a judge for the Fairport Harbor Mardi Gras Festival and Queen Contest, I of course said yes quickly.
How often do you get to pick a queen?
They’re recent high school graduates who are judged on poise, personality and presentation.
A few days before the ceremony, I got a packet of information on the girls up for the honor.
I knew I was in trouble, because, just judging by their accomplishments in school and their photos, they were already all winners.
I received welcome news during a call from Jim Cardina, vice president of the Mardi Gras, who told me I wouldn’t be marching to the reviewing stand where the judges would be studying the floats, but, rather, would be riding in a trolley car.
While that sounded fun all by itself, I was more pleased that I wouldn’t have to march along in a long line of people and cars. The reality of that ride proved a perfect setup to the parade.
If you’ve never attended this event, you owe it to yourself to head out to Fairport Harbor, pull up to a curb and check it out.
Just like most of Fairport Harbor.
In an age when community involvement usually means a few people getting together to do most of the work in a municipality, the Mardi Gras Parade shows the other side.
As the trolley made its way through the streets of Fairport, following the town’s emergency vehicles with their siren’s blaring at every wheel turn, we had time to check out the faithful gathered to see the show.
As we rolled along viewing the crowd that wondered just who we were, we couldn’t help but notice the smiles.
I thought about how many had just worked a long day, come home to cook dinner and then headed outside for the parade. They didn’t seem to mind, though, as evidenced by their wide grins and waves to our packed trolley.
When we reached the stand in front of village hall and pulled out our pens, the big line started.
This one was different than the ones I remember as a kid. This one had little acts that made us laugh, tap our toes, sit in amazement and clap in appreciation.
One after the other.
Some groups tossed candy. One group handed out cans of soda. Another group gave us cold bottles of water.
The senior citizens smiled and waved. The tiniest of children twirled their batons. The queen candidates laughed and thanked Painesville Municipal Court Judge Michael Cicconetti when he wished them good luck in the contest.
As this long parade made its way to a close, I couldn’t help but wish that it would have gone on a little longer.
If you have a chance, make sure you take some time this summer to check out the bands and little dancers, and listen to some engine roaring and sirens wailing.
I know, that’s a long line of suggestions. But maybe lines aren’t so bad after all.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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