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.