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Word Nerd

The brilliant absurdity of Sunnyside's Lighted Farm Implement Parade

There are stars in my eyes. Or rather, lighted farm implements. Yup, I finally attended the famous Sunnyside Lighted Farm Implement Parade.

I've lived in this town for three years, but this year was the first time I went to the parade. I went as a regular citizen, not a journalist, but took a camera anyway. I spent most of the parade on the gazebo at the corner of Sixth and Edison, listening to the announcers from about three feet away and snapping as many pictures as I could. My excuse is that I was learning how to take pictures of a parade in the dark, but really? I was just having fun.

I'm not sure what to make of it. I've been in parades before, more than I can remember. I was in marching band in junior high and high school, and played in a great many parades. I haven't watched nearly as many, though.

This parade was very different from most of the others I've seen and participated in. First difference was the weather. I've marched in rain and I've marched in high winds, but just about every one of the parades I've been to was warmer than this one simply because they were held in the summer. The clear and crisp cold added a strange atmosphere to the event for me.

The second big difference was the darkness. I've marched in Seattle's Seafair Torchlight Parade, but it was dark and damp. Sunnyside's parade was brilliant. It glowed in the night. I had never experienced that before in a parade, and it left an after image in my eyes that still makes me smile.

The make-up of the parade was also different from what I've seen in the past. I'm used to seeing a float followed by a marching band followed by a clown troop and maybe some horses and then another float and so on.

Sunnyside's parade was mostly just big machinery, but that's not a bad thing. I would hate to be a band member who tripped in front of one of those monsters. I know it's hard enough to see the ground from some of those machines on a good day. In the dark, blinded by lights? I'd rather not see any human mixing with the machines on the street.

The dearth of music from marching bands was made up for with the noise of the machines and their horns, and the occasional vehicle that included music. It was an odd change from what I'm used to.

The crowd was something else as well. People wrapped up in blankets along the sidewalks, chatting with their neighbors and meeting people from near and far. I saw a few people camping out to get spots more than an hour before the parade started, but even those people did what they could during the parade to make sure everyone could see.

I've been to parades with hardly a soul watching, and I've been to parades that were crowded on the sidewalks to the point of fights breaking out. The size of Sunnyside's crowds was, in my opinion, just about right, but the attitude of the crowd was exceptional.

I was also grateful for the hot cocoa being handed out on the corner by Sunnyside Christian School students. Getting something to help warm up was nice on such a cold night. I almost wished I was one of those runners before the parade so I could have gotten a little heat built up to help me get through it.

As for the parade itself, there is something completely absurd about it, and that is its strength.

The large machines moving in the dark were strangely majestic. I don't really have words for it. On any other night if I saw one of those on the road I would inwardly groan as I calculated how best to stay out of its way while still safely making it to where I was going. On this night, those same machines were the appeal. And they were beautiful.

There were some that were hardly decorated at all that just rolled through the parade route, but others were decked out to the point that it was almost impossible to understand what I was really seeing. That's the amazing thing about the parade. It takes something common out of context and turns it into artwork, for just one happy night.

I wish I were a child, or at least could look through the eyes of a child at the parade. I wonder what I would think.

As an adult the parade is about turning these useful, utilitarian and dangerous machines into a treat for everyone. There is something absolutely wonderful about being willing to be, as an entire town, so wonderfully silly.

My eyes are full of stars. And I hope I can be back next year and see it again.

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