We Need to Forget About Advertising And Bring Back Small-Town-Style Parades

We Need to Forget About Advertising And Bring Back Small-Town-Style Parades

What makes small-town parades special

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Today it seems most parades are extended commercials; each business uses their own float as an advertisement but it seems the foundation of a modern parade should be more than just a consumer's buffet. The Chatham Fourth of July Parade in Cape Cod, MA is considered one of the last small-town American parades.

What makes the small-town American parade special is its emphasis on community. I've had the luxury of walking in the Chatham Fourth of July Parade for three years now and every year there is a theme that somehow relates to their town, it is town pride.

What's special about this small-town parade is the passion its participants have. It's not a hundred professionals, strangers to each other working to put up the big inflatable snoopy or the muppets float like the Thanksgiving day parade. The focus of the parade is not one big celebrity people could only dream of having a conversation with. The small-town parade is average people with average jobs coming together to create something not even close to average.

All of the locals in town work on their own float for what they are representing, like a small business or theatre troupe or ice cream shop. It's a small-town, most of the people in the parade know each other and lend each other materials or ideas. Technically the Chatham parade is a competition, each float competing for a plaque and some publicity but that's not why all of these people come out to participate.

It's not to win, or to show-off their businesses or events show how fancy their float is. It's to have fun and to make the spectators have fun. It is a time to forget the troubles back home and enjoy the people you are watching the parade with. It is an opportunity to live in the moment.

As I walked the parade route, I saw all of the people watching smiling or talking or singing along to each float's music. The kids were all sandwiched in the front row with little bags or frisbees eagerly awaiting the goodies traditionally handed out. It's like Christmas in July for the kids. The parade route is hot, with close to no shade, even just sitting watching is enough to dehydrate for the day and yet nobody seems to care.

Everyone is still smiling. The point of a parade is not to advertise or show-off, the point of a parade is, as the Chatham, Cape Cod parade proves, to bring a community together under a common theme. It doesn't matter if the theme is pride or holidays or any other hundred themes, all that matters is the people of a community are together, supporting each other and having fun.

Cover Image Credit:

Anna Favetta

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17 Things I Wish I Knew At 17

Last year, best year.
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Seventeen. The year you begin senior year of high school. The year you begin to look at colleges and decide where you're going to spend the next four years of your life. The year you will probably have your heart broken at least once.

Your 17th year is huge. And, in hopes to help all of you 17-year-olds during your last year of high school, I've decided to share with you some insight into making this year the best year yet:

1. Every day of senior year should not be a fashion show

You've spent literally every other year of high school trying to impress your friends/the boys at your school. However, this is your last year. The fashion show is over. Forget the eyeliner every once in a while and know that wearing a T-shirt to school is actually the best thing ever.

2. The Lord is going to shut doors for a reason

... especially when it comes to college. You might not get into your dream school or you might not do so well on the SAT. Learn from it. He has a plan.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Who Had A Plan

3. This is your last year with your best friends as your best friends

It's the hard truth, but once you get to college, you're going to make a ton of new best friends. It's totally a good thing, trust me! But this is your last year doing life with your best friends -- make it count.

4. Eat as much as you want

Yeah, enjoy the pizza for lunch/soccer practice after school routine while it lasts. College is going to kick your metabolism's butt (and not in a pretty way).

5. Don't date unless you absolutely can't help it

You have no idea where you're going to school in the fall. You have no idea where your crush is going to go. And unless you're absolutely, 100 percent convinced y'all are going to get married, don't open up the possibility of dating during your senior year. Because I promise, a relationship with one of y'all in California and one of y'all in Tennessee is never going to be a walk in the park.

6. Show off on the basketball court

... or the soccer field, or the baseball diamond, or wherever your heart desires. It's your last year to prove yourself to your teammates, opponents, and coaches. Show off a little bit -- you deserve it.

7. Be intentional

Whether it's with your best girlfriends or the rising freshmen, be a presence in their school year. It makes coming home from college to them a whole lot sweeter.

8. Don't be a punk

Despite what you think, your parents and teachers are much more wiser and smarter than you are. Don't talk back, don't fight them, and don't disobey. It will make your year a whole lot smoother.

9. What you see in the mirror is beautiful

So often my senior year I found myself wishing I saw something else in the mirror, and it caused a lot of frustration and selfishness to occur during the school year. Don't let your appearance consume you; your heart is all that matters.

10. Have school spirit

You're going to be sitting in your dorm room on the night of your high school's first home game wishing you were there. Believe me, it's going to happen. Soak up the obnoxious football chants and dress up themes while you can -- you're going to miss it.

11. Love on your parents

They're going to miss you a whole lot when you leave for college, I promise. Despite whatever fighting and frustration takes place in your home, know that they love you and are low-key dreading you leaving for school. Love on them, stay home on a Friday night to watch a movie with them, and show them as much grace as you can. This is the last year they can make you soup when you're not feeling good and give you back scratches on the hard days -- don't forget it.

12. Drama needs to be done

This is literally your last year with your entire class all together. Do you really want to spend it bickering with or gossiping about these people? Do you really want to graduate with hate in your heart for any of them? Because I know it's not worth it. Be kind, be compassionate, and be understanding.

13. Don't slack in school

Contrary to popular belief, colleges indeed look at your senior year grades. Don't slack -- it's not worth losing a scholarship or college acceptance because you "forgot" to turn in your paper or "accidentally" plagiarized the whole thing.

14. Spend time with your siblings

I know the person I missed the most when I got to school was my little sister. After this year, you're done living in the same home with your siblings 365 days a year, and I promise you're going to miss it. Don't forget about them while you're too busy doing senior things.

15. Go on spring break with your friends

It may get crazy, it may be dramatic, and it may be expensive, but the highlight of my senior year was spending a week at the beach with my best friends. We made the best memories and laughed until we cried -- so do it.

16. Take lots of pictures

No matter how annoyed your friends get with you making every hangout a "photo sesh," you're going to be so thankful you documented all of your memories when you're looking back your freshman year of college.

17. This is your last year of being a kid

This is your last year of your mom making your dinner and doing your laundry. This is your last year of studying the morning of for a test. This is your last year of being dependent on other people. Soak it up. Let your parents baby you some, and let your need for help be evident. Freshman year is going to be so sweet but so different, so be present in the season you're in.

College is so, so wonderful, but so is senior year. Take it head on and be present. Don't straighten your hair every day, don't lie to your parents, and love on your friends and siblings even when they drive you crazy. I promise, this is going to be the best year yet.

Cover Image Credit: me

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The Fourth of July Embodies American Identity

In a divided country there actually might be some things that connect us across our differences.

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The Fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday. My experiences growing up made it a day of community, of new and old friends, of recklessness and excitement, good food and better music. At home, I would see neighbors and listen to a bunch of old guys playing fiddles and banjos before lighting fireworks much to close to the house. At summer camp, we would watch the counselors reenact the major events of the revolutionary war, sing patriotic songs and watch a professional firework show light up the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was the only day of summer camp when friends and family were allowed to visit. People were brought together in the middle of summer to celebrate not only our history but also our current lives and the hope for a bright future. In those days it was simple...

I was American. I was proud of my country. I was proud of what we did and what we stood for.

As I have grown up this simple sense of patriotism has grown more complex. In light of current politics and through my own growing understanding of America outside of the rural south, it can be hard to see how we can call ourselves a unified country.

While traveling around Europe, I felt a little lost. I was both embarrassed by my country and eager and excited to share about it. I loved comparing cultures and experiences with the people I met, but I felt dishonest because I only represented and understood a tiny portion of what America is.

America is a HUGE country. So big that most Europeans I met had a hard time conceptualizing how big and exactly how different each portion of the country can be. To me, California or Boston are as culturally different from me as England was. I grew up in the rural Appalachian Mountains. I also grew up in a college town. I grew up as a liberal in a conservative area. I grew up as the granddaughter of a career military man and WWII veteran. I grew up religious. I grew up skiing and climbing in an area where people truly value nature. All these things are connected to my sense of identity as an American. But I know that many other Americans cannot relate to my life, nor I to theirs. My experience as a middle class, white, cisgender, female with Scots-Irish blood, a rich family tied to the military and an intense love for rural places and adventure is not THE American experience. It is one of the thousands of different and all equally American lives.

So what does it actually mean to be American? That's the question I have been asking myself (and others) for the last few months. What - if anything - ties us together?

How can we feel unified across such great differences and divides even as our country grows more and more diverse?

While traveling I met a woman who asked me what America is really like. "I know you guys like freedom a lot, but I don't really know what that means," she said. And I laughed. It was so simple and obvious. But she was right. Americans are fiercely protective of whatever they think their rights are. Those rights are different for every American, ranging from the right to birth-control and public access to national parks (things close to my heart) to the right to equal consideration under the law no matter religion or skin color, from the right to own personal protection, to the right to a home and enough food to eat, from the right to safe and accessible education to the right to ancestral homelands. Americans feel like they have a right to the life they want and will fight like hell to protect it. This drive creates division. It creates as many problems and differences as it solves. But it ties us together and it reflects the reason our country exists in the first place.

I think Americans admire adventurers, people who are brave and curious and willing to try new things in order to grow and progress. We can think of the pioneers and the pilgrims, crossing rough seas and uncharted wilderness in pursuit of something better. We can think of the waves of brave souls venturing forth ever since, searching for a new place. Americans will move across the continent for school or a job in search of what they want. We have a tradition of great road trips. The biggest historical figures for us tend to be people who were not only good leaders or good people, but also ones who pushed boundaries, asked new questions and who kept searching for what they wanted, be that equal rights, a plot of land to farm, or the next best piece of technological progress.

Lastly, I think Americans are communal creatures. I believe that all humans crave community and companionship, but I think Americans make that desire into a national ideal. Our holidays and celebrations point towards this. The ones that are strictly and uniquely American - the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving - are centered around people. Holidays like memorial day are celebrated with cookouts and traveling to see other family members.

I admit I am taking a very optimistic and idealistic view of our country. I know that all these things are corrupted by hate and greed and ignorance. And unfortunately, many people believe that these values belong only to themselves and people like them.

I only have my experiences to draw from but at this point, in a time of change and division, I like to think these values can tie me to others across the continent and give us a sense of identity.

So, happy 4th of July. I would challenge everyone to use this holiday as a jumping off point for thinking more critically about the commonalities you have with your fellow countrymen. Even if at first they might seem like differences, these similar motivations and values can serve as a first tiny thread tying us together and making us a better nation.

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