Friday morning I was sitting on a street just outside of Grand Rapids. It’s a regular street just like thousands of other streets spread throughout the country. Normally you’d make your way down it without a thought. It’s nice. It’s got a lot of trees and extra lanes for extra traffic.
But, for one day, it gets to be a special place where special things happen. Children get to follow a very slowly moving police motorcycle down a major road on bicycles. There is a stream of them that starts off what will eventually be a parade. They start out fast, but they don’t stay that way. At the very beginning one of the more eager kids wipes out. His bike slides sideways into the grass and he flops over unceremoniously. Somewhere there is a concerned parent, but I can’t see them. They pretty quickly get sucked into the crowd.
Eventually the parade of tiny multicolored bikes gets swallowed into a slow stream of toddlers whose only speed is teetering and snail like. It’s ok. They’re having a great time. Eventually even they make it to the top of a small paved hill.
The sound of the first of many sirens announces the start of the parade. Yeah, I know parades whoopie. It was nice all the same. It reminded me in some ways that no matter what part of the country you’re in we are essentially at least a little bit the same.
One thing that all parades share is sirens. Give someone a large vehicle and a siren, and they will find every imaginable sound it can make. This held true through four separate caravans of fire vehicles. My favorite was the first mainly because of the sirens. The last was pretty good too. Every so often they’d blare horns. Shave and a hair cut….two bits! Every one knows that most favorite of rhythms. Hearing it blared across a four lane highway courtesy of no more than four separate fire engines makes it that much better.
Another thing every parade, well every Fourth of July parade anyway, has in common is tractors. That’s right in the middle of a well to do part of Grand Rapids there are a variety of tractors to be found. Never mind that probably only a few people at the parade, myself included, even know how to drive one, they must be there. They are, after all, a big part of that American image. For that day at least, everyone gets to imagine they are one of those old timey farming types coming home to apple pie and milk. My favorite was a steam powered tractor probably well over one hundred years old.
I’m not really sure what the purpose of this particular car was. I think it had some affiliation with a theater company. All I can say is that I’m all for someone with the gumption to cover an entire car in different fabrics.
What followed can only be described as a hodge podge of cars, tractors, and local businesses on trucks. Being that it is Michigan, we do really love our cars. I took a lot of pictures, but I’m only going to include a few mostly because I’m not the best photogapher. You don’t need to see how many bad pictures I can take.
Last but not least a pristine car the exact model and color of the car Kennedy was shot in. I can’t decide if this is really patriotic or just sort of creepy.
If there is one thing to remember on a day like the fourth, it’s that we are essentially all on the same team. The World Cup may be over for us, but that doesn’t need to be the only reason we can stand together. Even if we don’t share the same heritage, and lets face it most of us don’t. For one day at least, it’s just sort of nice to celebrate our shared country.