A few words about parades. For starters, I adore them. Parades are the most wonderful thing on earth. However, in recent years, I have noticed a decline in parade quality. Despite the gratifying appearance of fire trucks, nifty rescue vehicles, men in uniform, and scantily clan women, parade imagination seems to be lacking lately. Alas, no more half naked hula girls on the Elk fire truck. The women’s drill team, who marched with makitas and black and deckers, steps out no more. The politics used to be wittier, the floats dizzying, the light sweeter. Woe.
And the best thing about the Fort Bragg parades is that the parade route always goes directly in front of my house, so I can sit on the roof over the porch and survey the sights far from the madding crowd.
The major parading events of the year are:
Mendo Fourth of July
Paul Bunyan Days (September)
The Lighted Truck Parade (December)
Mendo Fourth of July is a long running tradition. I have a firm policy of never going to work on the fourth of July because I go to Mendocino to watch the parade, which always starts at noon. Usual players in the parade include–The All Susan Marching Band, Lick Bush in (year), Larry Fuente’s Cadillac, the Flynn Creek Circus, and other assorted “very Mendocino” floats. Last year, for example, a man wheeled a cart full of paper mache dead people while ringing a bell and dolorously calling “bring out your dead.” Politicians usually make a token appearance in open cadillacs festooned with red, white, and blue. The Eileen Hawthorne Fund/Mendocino Coast Humane Society have a spay/neuter float. The army/navy recruited insists on entering the parade and you can follow his progress with the “boos.” One memorable year, the Democrats followed hard on the Republicans (entries 50 and 49, respectively, as I recall), and an argument boiled over on Lansing. The parade is followed by a grand party at Friendship park, where an alarming amount of beer and sushi is served. I usually repair to big river beach to be roundly beated at ultimate frisbee and get sunburned. Oddly, the Petaluma Poultry Pluckers no longer make an appearance. Perhaps they have been outsourced. The above image is the sort of thing often seen at the Mendo parade.
Festa parade is put on by the Portugese community in Fort Bragg. It commorates Catholicism, Monarchy, and other outdated traditions. It’s also great fun. Queens and princesses are crowned, and march down the street in elaborate robes with trains. Portugese halls from all over Northern California represent. It’s good times. The police escort them on their meandering path through town, and they return several hours later looking like wilted cupcakes, trailing flowers through the streets. Citizens always seem slightly confused by festa, as it is not announced or advertised. It just is. On the way out, the princesses seem so much…fresher…and into the parade as an idea.
Paul Bunyan Days is known as Labour Day in other parts of the world. Paul and Babe (the blue ox of fame) visit Fort Bragg for one memorable, tourist laden weekend. The parade has much more of a, say, shall we call…hickish flavour. Much more trick riding (including, this year, some amazinginly talented Mexican men and their horses), much more “rah rah USA” sort of stuff, Paul and Babe, of course, and a larger representation of the local capitalists. (Come to Canclini’s! Eat at Cowlick’s! Etc). Paul Bunyan days is a rompin’ good time for all involved. The Humboldt State Marching Lumberjacks also make a regular appearance, and that is a good thing. Please note that the above tank is going the wrong way on a one way street.
The lighted truck parade is held at the annual lighting of the tree. It consists of…lighted trucks. Usually the few remaining lumber companies put on a showing, and any company with any sort of truck (Harvest Market, Thanksgiving Coffee, Roundman’s, etc) also musters an effort of sorts. The logging trucks, of course, always have the coolest floats. The lighted truck parade is usually also freezing cold, because it is held at night, the better to see the lights with, my dear. The above confection was created by Philbrick Logging.