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Don’t Rain on My Parade

I rode a pony in a small-town parade when I was in elementary school. That was one of the highlights of my childhood. But for some reason, I was reluctant to participate in the Starlight Parade when I started square dancing. I had been dancing less than a year at parade time. I helped decorate the float, and I participated in the potluck before the float rolled through downtown Portland. But I didn’t dance, even though the Checkerboards, my club, were on the first trailer. At parade time, I rode in the cab with the driver pulling the float and waved to bystanders.

Now I’m sorry I didn’t dance.  As I watched the square dancers that night, I could see they were having a lot of fun. They even were on TV. None of my friends outside of square dancing have ever been in the Starlight Parade. Few have been on television. I missed an opportunity that night to make a lasting memory.

Parades are work for the clubs involved; someone has to pick up the trailers, the club members spend most of the day decorating, and afterward everyone has to remove the decorations from the float and put everything away.

Clubs probably recruit few–if any–members by participating in a parade. But parade participation is not meant to be a recruiting tool. Parade participation keeps square dancing in front of the public. Parade participation is general advertising about our activity. (And it should be a fun, bonding experience for the clubs.) Maybe later on, given the right opportunity, a parade goer who saw a float will decide to try square dancing. And maybe not.

So a big thank you to the River City Dancers who took on the task of manning the first trailer at the Starlight Parade on June 5. And a big thank you to the Happy Rockers, Squaws and Paws and Chaps and Petticoats who agreed to dance on the second trailer. Thanks for keeping square dancing in view of the public.

This summer, we square dancers have other parade opportunities to show off our sport. The Country Cutups will dance in the Sandy Parade on July 8, and the Checkerboard Squares plan to dance in the Gresham Teddy Bear Parade on Sept. 25. But at least three parades that have featured square dancing in the past will have no square dancers this year. That is sad. Yes, the parades are work, especially for small clubs. But we’re missing an opportunity to promote square dancing…and have fun.

Could the area councils work together more closely to find dancers for the various parades? Could more be done to personally invite individual dancers to participate in parades and other exhibitions, thus ensuring enough workers and dancers? Could the councils put together top-level square dancing exhibition groups to perform at parades and other events? (Other forms of dancing have such groups–remember the showcase of rounds at Mid Winter!) I don’t have answers…just questions.

But smart people belong to the three area councils. If they got their heads together, agreed on the importance of keeping square dancing in the public eye, and brainstormed, we wouldn’t have empty trailers at parade time.

An old cliche says, “Everyone loves a parade.” The time has come for square dancers to adopt that as a summer motto.

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