The carnival reached its climax with the Winter Carnival Parade, which marched down Main Street this weekend, with Bob running sound for one of the floats, and me hanging out by the print store to watch. It was the best.
Toward the top of the parade, we had an appearance by the official mascot Fluffy the Snow Owl, a “suited character” specifically commissioned for the carnival season. Fluffy’s costume is effectively cute, which is saying something for an owl, but the headpiece’s sightlines are murder, and the actor inside keeps looking down at her feet to keep from tripping. This of course translates into a snow owl who’s perpetually hanging her head and slouching while she walks, a real Charlie Brown of the wilderness. Even when some kid called for her attention, Fluffy would only look up for a moment to wave before inevitably hanging her head again, and dragging herself down the rest of the parade route. “What a week I’m having…” Of course, all this only made her more endearing. You wanted to buy Fluffy a drink and lend an ear to her troubles.
Next came the floats. This year’s theme was Medieval Times, so it was probably inevitable that there would be a number of floats themed to Python’s “Holy Grail”–though cleverly, each local business chose a different part of the film that was suited to their sphere. The local hardware store, for instance, focused on construction, and marched with a trojan bunny. Our church, with its obvious focus being religion, marched as the famous chanting monks, periodically whacking themselves with (foam) boards. As for the local tuberculosis research facility, they of course focused on the plague, and had the “not dead yet” guy in a wheelbarrow. Groups with no Python fandom still honored the theme, with the womens’ synchronized lawn chair marchers re-upholstering the seats of their “instruments” with royal crests, and the beard-crazy Brothers of the Bush (essentially a bear scene for straight people, yes even straight women) getting kilted and vikinged out. The whole event became an anatomy lesson in the building blocks of this town, filtered through a Renfair prism.
Though some groups stuck to what they knew. The Shriners, who have probably paraded as clowns for the past thirty years, paraded as clowns once again, inadvertent contestants in a John Wayne Gacy lookalike contest. The various Re-enactors, too, fired rifles and marched in their appropriate period garb like always, since they couldn’t figure how to cross-breed two eras of American history with one era of British. (Not Harry Turtledove fans, I’m guessing…)
My favorite marchers wound up being the Coleberry Lake Green Circle and The Whistlestop Bar, probably because they were both so nuts.
The Coleberry Lake Green Circle had this troupe of bucket drummers with them, all in these very cool, very creepy, carnival masks. The men and women at the front of the group dressed as rangers and neo-pagan madrigal ladies, with lots of leaves and greenery on everything. I don’t know what any of it had to do with composting and sustainable living, but as a promotional exercise, it sold me.
The Whistlestop Bar constituents dressed as sock monkeys, which I know, has nothing at all to do with the medieval theme, but you know what? I love sock monkeys, and I love them even more when they are visibly manic. These folks were prancing and hopping around like they could surge into Kricfalucian frenzy at any moment, crazier than the extras in “The Crazies”, I kid you not. And while some of them were college-age kids, many of them were decidedly not, and the older ones were even nuttier. This one guy who looked like he ran a roadside gas station kept bouncing around with his tongue hanging out, poised on the edge of transmutation into some horndog cartoon character.
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The sock moneys came toward the tail-end of the parade, and this was appropriate, because they served to smooth the transition from “small town fun” to “shitfaced frenzy” that occurred immediately following the event. The balconies on Main Street were all stocked with revelers. The bucket drummers from the Green Circle made their way from storefront to storefront, jammed in the street with other musicians, and then actually headed inside to jam in the stores. The air was not entirely dangerous, but not entirely safe either, like Woodstock with just a hint of Altamont.
I bought a couple of bottles of wine and headed back home to the apartment, to cook a Betty Crocker recipe for Chicken & Dumplings, as Bob and I were having a guest over for card games later that evening. I felt the pull of the carnival, but figured I’d engage in the madness another night.
For now, it was just nice to know it was there.