You have to love a parade. Just the strange ambiguity alone sells it for me. Take the folks actually in the parade. I suspect they feel a little like they’re standing up to sing karaoke and thinking : “This may be awful” — “I may really embarrass myself” — “Can I really do justice to ‘Black Magic Woman’?” You get the idea. But, a few bars in, what does your crazy friend have to lose? And over the top he goes, breaking into an encore of “I’m all out of Love.”
So it is with people in the parade. By the time you see them blocks down the road, they have thrown out the window their respectful day jobs as accountants and lawyers, and they’re prancing, dancing, singing, tossing candy, and inciting the crowd to cheers. They have decided that they were really born as street entertainers and might start a late career in cabaret. Why not?
As for the viewers, we have our own baggage. Sweltering in the asphalt-reflected sun, marginally obeying the restrictions to not throw our bodies into the path of the oncoming parade juggernaut, we wait for SOMETHING. What? We don’t know. Is it the candy thrown perilously close to the tractor wheel? Is it the chance to shake some politician’s hand? Or is it just us looking for a little bit of America? Got me. You pay your money and take your choice, as my best buddy says.
None of this ambiguity applies to a Pride Parade. That’s right — a Pride Parade . . . in Iowa. Land of tall corn and gay marriages. And just like the annual Fourth of July Parade, we had the annual Pride Parade this past weekend. The crowds jammed the East Village section of Des Moines and cheered as group after group went past:
This was all good campy fun. But, as I watched from the sides, it began to dawn on me that I was seeing church group after church group after church group marching in support. And then appeared all the big business industries for which Des Moines is famous: Nationwide, Principal, Meredith. Supporting gay rights? Really?
How can this be? Normal looking people were standing up front and center: no speedos — no drag queen outfits — no bare chests. They were standing up in support. And, we, the audience, were witnesses. Church group after church group. Amazing. There was no ambiguity in this parade. The marchers were making a statement and we on the sidelines were present to hear it. End of story.
Well, not quite. The pride fest included young men wrestling in oil and this wonderful Miss Capitol City posing with my son.
And my favorite group of kids, who were learning first-hand about acceptance, and, as a bonus, the important skill of begging for candy. But the mom was the star. I overheard her explain to the smallest boy that the twenty-something man in the parade might be wearing only underwear because it was so hot. Moms always know the right answer.