2010.07.21 All that and a horse's behind

Written by David Green.

Guest column

By HEATHER WALKER

After enduring the spectacle that is the City Wide Garage Sales, I was tempted to record some of my observations for your entertainment. But then I thought, why? Most of you LIVE here. You KNOW what it’s like. You don’t need to relive it in print. So instead, I offer you this glimpse into the happenings of another small town in Michigan, just over the bridge.

Let’s go back to July 4th, to the city of Curtis (pop. 1,400) in the Upper Peninsula to watch the “Biggest Little Town Parade in Michigan.” I’m not sure how the parade got its name or if it’s even accurate, but the event draws a crowd that dwarfs the town’s population 10 times over. Clearly, it’s either THAT big or people in the U.P. are THAT bored. Either way, many of you will probably never have a chance to see the BLTP for yourself (given it is a 6-hour trip for us border folks), and THAT is tragedy. Thus, I present to you these highlights.

Now before I get started, I want to dispel any illusions you may have about this parade. You can put images of lush, colorful, animated Rose Bowl Parade floats out of your head. In fact, you can put images of floats in general out of your head. The closest thing I saw to a float in the BLTP was one sponsored by a local construction company. It was comprised of a large truck pulling a front loader on a trailer decorated with a banner reading “Don’t get BURNED.” In the bucket of the front loader, elevated high above the eager crowd, was a smoking burning barrel—I couldn’t say for sure what was burning inside, but it smelled a lot like gun powder.

Of course the parade featured many typical parade attractions—fire trucks, classic cars, a giant concrete cow, fez-topped Shriners in very small race cars, politicians waving from convertibles—but it also offered some unique entries. For instance there were several bagpiper groups, a massive all-terrain military vehicle that could easily house two or three compact cars in its bowels, a pompom troop outfitted in “suntan” nylons and saddle shoes performing a hip-hop number, Chihuahuas, a very life-like Smokey the Bear wearing stylish denim pants over his ample belly, and lots and lots of teenagers throwing Tootsie Rolls.

Our candy-grabbers wound up with a stash that could easily have filled three plastic grocery bags. While most of the “give-aways” were candy (e.g. Tootsie Rolls), a few groups handed out practical items such as key chains, magnets, pencils and rulers. It was all standard parade fare—except for one. This freebie was simply a pamphlet passed out to the same little people who were hoping only for candy. But instead of Laffy Taffy, all they got was a religious tract. On the front was the question “WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR ONE SIN?” Below it, a clip art graphic of a calculator (in case the reader needed to do some figuring). On the inside in BOLD, the answer was made clear: GOD’S ANSWER: ETERNAL HELL. Ahem, more Tootsie Rolls, kids?

So it went. We watched. The kids squealed. Girls in “Daisy Dukes” waved. The parade wound down. And then we saw it—the answer to a question that had puzzled us throughout the event (no, not the question printed on the church handbill—clearly that one was already answered!). What we were curious about was the boldness of so many spectators to openly consume alcohol while watching the parade. “Isn’t there a law or ordinance prohibiting such behavior?” we wondered. It certainly wouldn’t have been permitted in Morenci. Then we saw something that told us either that public consumption IS permissible in Curtis or that Curtis folks just don’t care about such things as city ordinances. One of the final parade entries was, in fact, a U.P.-style “tiki bar,” built out of pine logs and landscaped with potted pine trees decorated with empty beer cans. Behind the bar were several men openly toasting and drinking “hops pops” with much glee. Well, OK then.

While we suspected the mobile bar may have been the parade finale (i.e. “Let the party begin!”) to our surprise, it was not. The final attraction was actually a pair of painted ponies (literally “painted” with colored chalk or pastels). While equine entries are not uncommon in parades, the short stature and colorful appearance of these beasts made them especially interesting. And it was, in fact, the pretty ponies who delivered the parting message of the BLTP.  Emblazoned on the horses’ butts were the letters “U.S.A.” in red, white and blue. Very patriotic and very, I thought, fitting for a Fourth of July parade. After all, Independence Day is the holiday we celebrate the signing of a document telling the King of England what our forefathers really thought of him.

Now about those spectacular garage sales….

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