Small town parades are like mutts adopted from the pound–a strange mix of breeds, awkward at times, but lovable for their inherent charm.
For the Fourth of July, I went home to Fairbanks, Alaska to spend time with my family who lives there.
In all the years, I lived in Fairbanks, I never went to the Ester Parade. It might have to do with the fact that Ester is a quirky place that is seldom a destination for people living in Fairbanks, unless you are taking tourists to the Malemute Saloon or tieing one on at the Golden Eagle.
My friend Sue said I should go out there, and I figured it would be full of great photo opportunities for my 365 Photo Project, and I wasn’t wrong.
The newspaper said the parade begins at 11ish. If you still wanted to be in the parade and hadn’t registered, you could still just show up to get in. I wonder what would happen if someone tried that at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
As the parade prepares, people line the sides of the road in a party-like atmosphere that I imagine is reminiscent of a low key Woodstock. To say that Ester is a little hippie would be like saying Alaska is a little cold. As we were talking about the weather on this cloudy Fourth, someone said, “Don’t say the R word.” Rain we responded. “No, Republicans.”
The charm of the parade was that it was truly a community event. Float (and I use that term generously) numbers were paper plates taped on to bikes, cars, and people. The whole thing started with a fleet of children on their bicycles zipping down the road to the cheers of the parade viewers. Each child had a paper plate with a number fastened to their bike to make official their entry into the event.
Then there was a long wait for the next entry. Pacing proved to be an issue, but allowed for conversation, parade commentary, and drink refills (see below).
The drone of the ever-favorite Red Hackle Pipe Band sounded the true start of the parade. This group is a mainstay of many events in Interior Alaska. The rest of the parade was a mixture of fun and silliness, with lots of nods to the Green movement and conservation issues. Since, Ester is quite liberal, there were the Mad Hatters who were protesting…well, what they were protesting seemed unclear, but they were mad with a sense of good humor.
There were the obligatory fire trucks with their shrill sirens. I always wonder what would happen if there was a fire during a parade. Would they high tail it out of there? It would seem like summer heat and fireworks would make that more of an issue on the Fourth of July.
There were very strange juxtapositions of ideas and characters. My favorite was the rowdy group from Calypso Farms that had a giant puppet, Darth Vader in a fur coat playing pipes, Kermit the Frog playing a drum, and a group of people dancing around in a Bacchanalian frenzy.
Sesame Street characters proved to be a common theme with a small blue dog dyed blue and named GrrRover and a pig with a wig called Miss Piggy.
In Alaska, dogs are always a favorite, and there were all manner of them watching the parade. I like the photo I got of the German Shepherd mix with a blue and a brown eye.
Props go to Donna and her potent concoction of lemons, limes, sugar, ice, and an ample among of Citrus vodka. Evan said they were called Yip-Yaps. The ingredients were mixed, shaken, chilled in a big jar, and poured generously. I can only say this cocktail enhanced the liberal craziness that was the Ester Fourth of July Parade.