I grew up in a small town, and the parades were a real high point. They were every Friday afternoon before the home football games, and I had the perfect vantage point from my grandmother’s front porch. The floats were decorated to the hilt, with massive tissue paper pompoms and movie star-like cheerleaders and bare chested Warriors painted purple with what was probably not body paint.
We anticipated the parades the same way we looked forward to Christmas, counting the days and hoping for goodies.
Scores of candies came our way, but the excitement of the parade itself is what I remember, and what I missed after moving to Chattanooga.
Thanks to Love Lookout, a nonprofit dedicated to bettering Lookout Mountain and fostering its already strong community, I watched a Fourth of July parade a couple of years ago. I couldn’t see it from my house, but I ran down Scenic Highway as soon as I heard the sirens announcing its commencement, and found the perfect vantage point on Jody and the late Bob Clark’s porch.
The next year, I was actually in the parade, along with the Mountain Mirror gals Lucia Hopper and Farell McGinness, and my little dog, Vic. Watching from the sidelines so she could cover the story, Gwin Tugman blended in with the crowd for once in her life, barely noticeable in a patriotic spangled oversized top hat, sparkly star earrings, and Forth of July sweater and sunglasses. We couldn’t have had any more fun, and waving at scores of smiling faces as we travelled slowly down Lula Lake Road to the Commons made me plain happy.
That year, my neighbor, Mefran Campbell, started working on her float weeks in advance, along with Gay Burns, Nancy Driver, Margy McGinness, Betsy Silberman, Gracie Schriner, Marie Thatcher, Marian Steffner, Mary McGinness, Becky Sutter, Nancy Estes, Kathy Glascock, Ellen Bullard and a few other fun-loving gals. Every time I asked her to play Mah Jong, she cryptically said she had a meeting about the parade. And I ask her lots. Granted, these fun gals spent the majority of their frequent meetings orchestrating celery sticks, ice cubes and a spicy tomato juice, but their oversized tongue-in-cheek posters were hilarious on parade day, and they stole the show, all perched on hay bales in a trailer and wearing all manner of July 4th apparel as they squealed and waved American flags.
The 4th of July parade on Lookout Mountain put my childhood parades to shame. Unicycles, bicycles, motorcycles, bands, golf carts, horses, food trucks and more red white and blue than I’d ever seen in my life makes this parade a grand affair. Signal Mountain also has a whopper of a parade, as do so many communities, and Chattanooga as a whole. This year, July 4, 2020, was different. Most of these patriotic celebrations were cancelled due to COVID-19, and the ones that took place were no doubt different, with social distancing in place.
But the feeling was the same. There’s something truly special about a community coming together as one, donning the same sort of apparel, and having an absolute ball. Being all in, either dressing up as Uncle Sam and riding a unicycle or waving from the sidewalk, unifies us. And in this time of distance, when I worry about hugging my mother and barging into my neighbor Mefran’s house, I know I will never, ever take the Fourth of July parade for granted.
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(Ferris Robinson is the author of two children's books, "The Queen Who Banished Bugs" and "The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds," in her pollinator series, with "Call Me Arthropod" coming soon. "Making Arrangements" is her first novel, and "Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity" is a collection of true tales about man's best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com
. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror. Ferris can be reached at email@example.com )