austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

I guess there is no one to blame

The Pumpkin Fest parade was the big morning event, and we had only a rough idea of what to expect. Presumably a parade, with float-goers handing out cheap jewelry and sulking about not being allowed to pass out candy. The proceedings started out like that, with flag-bearers and a grand marshall (Bob Disko, about whom I know nothing) and then a guy in an eagle costume marching out. Flag-twirlers followed, and then the Conneaut Area Eagle Marching Band which made sense of the mascot. There was some truck carrying on its bed winners of multiple beauty contests, from girls through young women, with names written in a semi-cursive scrawl I can't make out in my photographs. One of the political candidates, a person running for, I think, county commissioner had someone walking from his car to the side to give the kids sparkly costume jewels and the like. Everybody else who gave out anything gave out candy, though.

I exaggerate a slight bit. There were, I think, one or two people giving out trinkets or cheap toys or whatever. Everybody else was tossing out lollipops and Tootsie Rolls and Jolly Ranchers and all other kinds of indestructible candies. We thought of the life of an itinerant candy salesman, who may know nothing about the parade or what it's for, but does know that for some reason this little spot on the Pennsylvania-Ohio border goes wild for Tootsie Rolls in early October. Kids were having trouble keeping up with all the unbreakable candies tossed their way. Parents were pointing out to four-year-old Dylans and Bradleys that there, they missed something that's sitting on the manhole cover, they should get that before ... whatever happens to unwanted Jolly Ranchers left in the sun. We had guessed there might be some scofflaw not respecting the no-candy rule, but had also guessed the worry about childhood obesity and diabetes was overblown. The kids were getting at least as good a haul as they might for Halloween trick-or-treating in a good neighborhood, and this only a couple weekends ahead of Halloween.

Since this was mid-October there were political floats. Grim-faced teens held up the Crawford County Republican Party banner, near the front of the parade. The area Democrats got their float in nearly at the end of the parade, smiling a tiny bit more. There were plenty of candidates taking their chance, sensibly enough, even if they couldn't do much more than have a bright green Jeep with the catchy slogan ``Get More With Les [ Lenhart ]''.

Our overwhelming favorite candidate-float was for C Sherman Allen, of the C Sherman Allen Auctioneer and Associates company. He was dressed in a bright orange foam ten-gallon hat, a pink gingham shirt with orange work apron, cargo shorts, and white socks pulled up to his knees. Yes, the shirt had a pocket, and pocket protector, and a dozen pens stuffed into it. He was running a write-in, or as his hat's sign put it, a ``Write In'', campaign for county commissioner. If all this wasn't delightful enough, I noticed the sign on his car clearly used to read ``VOTE FOR'' rather than ``WRITE IN'' Sherman Allen. He was running on a campaign of ``Because I Care'', and according to the flyer stuffed into his hat --- formerly a 'Got milk?' hat --- he'd appreciate your write in vote. He had a secondary car with a giant pencil, labelled ``WRITE IN'', strapped to the roof. We would encounter him again.

Allen also had a float that seemed to cross the line between great and crazy. I'd seen it driving in while trying to find a parking spot. This was a series of what look like metal barrels, cut open and with seats stuffed inside. They're put on a wheeled frame, and pulled around, looking like an amusement park ride that's broken loose and got free. In the midst of Allen's floats it had a bunch of kids riding in the barrels. It would make a second appearance, albeit empty, at the end of the parade.

Some candidates ran on floats that featured kids holding signs to ``Vote For My Mom'' or ``Vote for My Grandmom''. One candidate put up a big, flat poster of himself held on a post through the sun roof in his float's car. The back had nothing on it, so it was just this white blankness that amused me. One ticket --- a pair of candidates, for something like school board or something --- featured a guy walking in the world's least-comfortable-looking squirrel costume. I don't want to disparage any full costumes, but this was hideous. It was tight-fitting around his body, which would be all right, but the tail was this ramrod-straight, torso-wide column of fabric, that could not look any less natural or cute if they tried. Someone a few rows back had a homemade-looking costume that I would say was a deer if not for the long and raggedy tail trailing behind.

There were plenty of normal floats and attractions, groups of clowns that walk around, or floats from the Historical Society, which had a truck from a building materials company that goes back far enough the phone number was just four digits. We're interested in the Conneaut Lake Area Historical Society, naturally, now. A couple of area radio stations had them, including a guy in a frog costume. The Conneaut Lake Park Volunteers had a float near the end, a car with a couple of signs from the park, including the post for their miniature golf course. The Conneaut Lake Park Volunteers car was marked as such with a bunch of magnet-backed letters stuck on back of a Ford Taurus, without the letters quite making a uniform line or being all the same size. This figures.

Then there were the Shriners. About 45 minutes into the parade came a pair of older men holding the banner for the Zem Zem Shriner's Lodge, for Erie. Then came a marching band and then seven or so Shriners riding motorized chairs, delighting the crowd with running around in loops and figure-eights and columns that split apart and come back together, coming into formation and breaking out again and all that. When they'd had their chance at our intersection --- and they would stop and resume many times, so that people all over the route could get their turns --- on went a truck and trailer for the Zem Zem Fez Flyers. And after that ... were some more Shriners.

These were in gokart-type small cars, and another seven of them went about delighting the crowd by running in loops and figure-eights and columns that split apart and come back together, coming into formation and breaking out again and all that. Another trailer and a float of clowns, one of them dressed as Super Mario, wearing a Mario doll on his back, went by. Then came a buggy with the logo of the Zem Zem Hornets on it, and a new set of gokart-type cars, all yellow entered. This next group delighted the slightly more weary crowd by running in loops and figure-eights and columns that split apart and come back together, coming into formation and breaking out again and all that.

Then came a minivan for the Shriners Hospital and I started wondering: are there any young Shriners, or is the group fading into demographic oblivion? They seem to do good work, although how do I know that beyond a reputation that I picked up from, well, everybody's kind of delighted to see them in a parade.

After the Shriners Hospital minivan came ... another seven Shriners, these ones driving miniature cars that looked quite sporty, rather than gokart-style. They gave the crowd another dose of the delight of seeing them running in loops and figure-eights and columns that split apart and come back together, coming into formation and breaking out again and all that. And we started to wonder, well, that's all the packs of Shriners they have, right? How much of the parade can be all basically the same thing, repeated?

So then came a pack of Shriners in off-road vehicles, ones big enough they could support having flag masts. And this group gave the crowd another pummeling of delight of seeing them running in loops and figure-eights and columns that split apart and come back together, coming into formation and breaking out again and all that. And that was followed by a car pulling behind it a statue of a giant Shriner, of the kind Zippy the Pinhead might consult for moral clarity.

When the next group of Shriners, these ones on ... I don't know, some kind of big-wheeled motorized tricycle that I guess is for adults, I confess, my delight levels were at a low. It's fantastic that they had so many people to come out and perform but based on my photograph timestamps this was at least thirty minutes of basically the same thing, over and over, in slightly different vehicles. I understand the impression made by having a big presence, but I wonder if three modest-sized presences might not have made for better pacing.

The Shriners and their many, many motorized vehicles dominated the back half of the parade, and even now dominate my memories of the whole parade. They were really only about one-third of the parade, and not even the last one-third. It just felt like a lot of them is all. Still, apparently the Shriners of western Pennsylvania/eastern Ohio are not short on membership.

When the parade ended we took a couple of photographs of the surroundings. For example there's a realtors that on its sign boasted ``DOWNTOWN'' CONNEAUT LAKE, just like that, and somehow the quote marks tickled us so. I mean, it's a small town, but it is a legitimate downtown strip there. And we got some pictures of the adorable Golden Dawn Zatsick's Market, the supermarket we had parked by. And we trusted that we would be able to find our way to Conneaut Lake Park. This would be fairly easy; just follow where everybody else in the world was going, and try to make a left turn into that mass movement. We're still waiting at this one T-intersection for someone to let us through.

Trivia: John Cameron Swayze broadcast what appears to have been the first regular TV newscast, ten minutes, three days a week for Kansas City (Kansas) experimental station W9XAC in 1937. Source: Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television, Michael Ritchie.

Currently Reading: Barnaby and Mr O'Malley, Crockett Johnson.

Tags: amusement parks, conneaut lake park pumpkinfest
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