I was in one parade in my life. I was in third grade, maybe fourth–I can’t remember if I had my pink glasses frames yet, and I can’t check because the only photos from the day are 500 miles from here, at my mom’s parents’ home in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Of course, I can see myself wanting to look completely glamorous and refusing to wear my glasses, too, even if it meant running into things…

It was the Fourth of July Marblehead Horribles Parade. The parade dates back to at least as far as 1887, according to the Boston Globe. A little bit of research suggests Horribles parades have taken place for years all along the North Shore in Massachusetts, and Beverly Farms, where my dad grew up, still holds its Horribles Parade at Pride’s Crossing. (It is occurring to me that I have some fantastic photos of Marblehead from an October 2007 trip, and it is not too late to post them. The “DEMOCRATS” and “REPUBLICANS” benches in front of Pride’s Crossing are priceless, and I recall seeing a little less bird poo on the former.)

Regardless, I dressed up as Nancy Kerrigan and roller-skated through the parade wearing a homemade medal, with my little cousin by my side on rollerblades as Bonnie Blair, and it is one of my happiest memories.

I did not watch the Fredericksburg Jaycees Christmas Parade until I was in high school. (It seems all the young ballerinas, gymnasts, baton twirlers, and beauty queens in Fredericksburg are in the parade, so no, I was never eligible to march in it.) My parents cited traffic and “nothing good to see” as reasons not to go, and they are only sort of right. Fortunately, I drive a little VW and had no problem parking a few blocks from Caroline Street in the five feet between a SUV bumper and the “no parking here to corner” sign, after the parade had started. I expect most people go because they know someone in the parade. But at 25 years of age, I still like living vicariously through the little kids in Santa hats, waving until long past when their arms get tired. I think it’s worth seeing. My only wish is that whoever strings the lights on the trees that line Caroline would put some TLC into their art to make for a better backdrop.

After the parade, I brought my latest John Steinbeck read to Bistro Bethem, my favorite restaurant in Fredericksburg (I go back often). The chef makes his own sausage and pates (using pigs and ducks), and a lot of ingredients are listed with the local farm from which they were grown and sold. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable way to warm up after the parade than to sit at a window two-top while snow is falling, reading the author’s notes from East of Eden, eating a charcuterie platter, and sipping Jim-Jim, the Down Under Dog.

Between floats.

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This baton has fire on both ends.

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Sometimes I wondered about what certain entries bring to the parade…

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…but this is Fredericksburg, Virginia, after all!

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And it is a Christmas parade, not a non-denominational holiday parade, so there will be a Nativity scene.

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This was awesome–a guy in the SHS marching band had somehow wired his hair with twinkling red and green lights!

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I’m a sucker for things that glow in the dark. It took a lot of willpower to resist a glow necklace.

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The bar at La Petite Auberge. Lots of happy memories.

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