As you know there’s a week-long winter carnival here in Coleberry Lake. It’s intended to break up the monotony of the season, and give everybody an excuse to talk to each other for a few days, before returning to hiding until spring.
Bob and I were only able to enjoy a slice of the carnival events last year, thanks to our being a mite further away, and our vehicle being so unreliable besides. But this year we’re within walking distance of most of the festivities, so we have no excuse not to take in more of the scene. Like the coronation ceremony, for instance.
Every carnival, a king and a queen are crowned from a list of local volunteer leaders. (The candidates nominate themselves, and are then voted on by carnival committee members–a process remarkably similar to the user competitions on free porn sites, which I mention purely for flavor.) Once chosen, the pair has their picture taken for the paper, and appears at the carnival events in robes and such, accompanied at nearly all times by a “court” of local High School students, in thick Edward Gorey furs, and younger “pages”, who trot around and look precious in their Disney Princess garb and Burger King crowns.
Nobody takes any of this too seriously, including the participants, but there’s also something weirdly, well, medieval about the whole affair. You start to see the court everywhere, after all–you see them at the Elk’s Lodge, then you turn around and they’re at the frying pan toss. Always in their formal attire, too. It gets so you start to feel the whole week is actually about them.
For instance, I recently heard that they (the royals) were coming to the church for a special service on Monday night, and I nearly shoveled my hernia back, clearing the snow extra-clean for them. Then again, my church is Episcopal, so it’s only appropriate that we bend over backward for the crown.
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The coronation itself is the first event of the carnival. It happens at the Coleberry Lake town hall, a place in itself so authentically “small town” that you feel convinced a serial killer with a pickaxe is due any moment.
Bob had to rehearse a carnival-related concert that night, so I went alone, and ran into a friend, who had brought her kids along. “I love how excited the boys are when I tell them we’re going to the coronation,” she told me, “as opposed to how bored they are when they’ve been here a while. They always seem to forget how long it is.”
The ceremony began with a prayer, which was not nearly as weird as that probably sounds, because the prayer was so theme-specific–a briskly non-denominational ode to snow, slush, sleet, long dark nights, and how glad we are for them. It sounded like something a family of Yetis would say before eating Thanksgiving dinner.
Then the speeches started, with different members of different volunteer organizations taking the podium to talk about the carnivals past, and the carnival coming. (This is the 114th.) For fun, my friend suggested that I begin counting how many times the different speakers ended their speeches with, “Let the carnival begin!” She wasn’t kidding, either. The presenters repeated these words, or variations of them, so many times that any related drinking game would have proven fatal. By the time the actual coronation portion was introduced, my friend’s son whined aloud, “I thought the coronation started an hour ago!”
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The most entertaining part (aside from the closing number, which saw half the court participating in a Red Hot Chili Peppers dance-off) was the procession. During this, all the members of the court, young and old alike, made their way down the center aisle to the stage, with the chamberlain introducing them over the loudspeaker.
The thing with this procession was, everybody wrote their own introductions–even the pages. So you’d have a local mother come down the aisle while the chamberlain said, “Georgina is an active volunteer for the local food pantry, and a member of the civic association! In her spare time she enjoys gardening and cross-country skiing!” And then the next person down the aisle would be a page, and the chamberlain would say, “Billy likes Legos, Wii, and playing fetch with his dog Skipper!” It was kinda priceless.
I found myself really envying all the people who live in this place, especially the kids, who don’t know how rare it is to live in a city that’s also a bona fide community. Though I guess that, as a church shoveler, I am now also a part of that community, in exactly the way I’m most comfortable being a part of it–by secretly making sure it doesn’t break its ass.