You want a birthday to be memorable, a big bang. To have people who love you most on hand to mark the special day, to rally around you with gusto and celebrate with candles, balloons, noisemakers, fireworks and dedications in your honor.
Washington had one heck of a party over the weekend.
Goodness knows a lot of work went into the planning — two years’ worth — but the ideas came together and the result was a three-day event that rocked our river town, one folks were talking about at the picnic following the parade, one that will be remembered for years to come.
Hurrying to get to the parade, we parked near Fifth and High streets, cracking the windows of the car so the hot apple pie I’d baked for the pie contest could cool. Up the High Street hill Spark and I trudged, loaded down with lawn chairs and a camera, holding the hand of our 4-year-old granddaughter, Parker, the only grandchild of ours who could make it that day.
It was already crowded on the streets at the corner, so we staked a claim to the concrete island in the middle of the intersection, hoping the policewoman nearby wouldn’t vote us off the island. Soon we had plenty of company, the more the merrier as the parade began.
And what a parade it was — from the townspeople dressed in period costumes, to the creative floats, to the magnificent Clydesdales, to the bands and more, so much more.
Tykes to seniors over age 80 marched along, happy to be part of the procession that wound its way along the streets of a town they’re delighted to call home. Clapping and cheering accompanied their passing, the crowds lining the streets voicing their praise for all the effort and ingenuity that had gone into building the floats.
“It’s the best parade Washington’s ever had,” was something I heard over and over again. When I asked Parker what she liked best, she said, “The candy.” Whatever floats your boat!
An hour or so later she was dashing about chasing floating bubbles, as were gaggles of other kids trying to pop iridescent orbs of all sizes pumped out of a Bubble Bus.
Parker had abundant energy from the dollar hot dog she downed and the ground roast beef sandwich of mine that she ate before I could claim it as my own. No matter, I had another on the way home and was it ever delicious, reminiscent of wedding reception beef sandwiches, Spark said.
Food for every appetite and craving could be purchased at the picnic. Organizations outdid themselves with the variety. The homemade potato chips were sinful, and the baked potato bar was loaded with goodies. But there was only so much I could eat in the two hours we were at the picnic, before Parker tuckered out and asked to go home and play at Mee Mee and PaPa’s.
I could have stayed all day — the weather was perfect — overcast and cool, and it was like old home week seeing so many people who I knew, exchanging pleasantries, catching up on their family news and meeting their kids and grandkids.
A distinct and heartfelt old-fashioned “Hello, neighbor” atmosphere prevailed at Saturday’s picnic, an air reminiscent of ice-cream socials and church suppers in Mayberry, USA. Bands set your foot to tapping, kites dipped and danced in the wind, canoes zipped across the lake, and children raced about delirious with fun.
Smack in the middle of the frivolity and camaraderie, I saw committee members for the 175th celebration working to assure that things were running smoothly. It’s my hope that these worker bees got to see the smiles they provided.
It truly was a birthday party for the record books. Thanks to a dedicated committee, and a lot of work from many, all of our wishes came true.