On the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, I had the opportunity to check off one of the goals on my "Life List" -- I got to ride on a float in a parade.
OK, so it wasn't a float, it was a firetruck. How cool is that?
I have grown up around parades. My dad loved them and would take us to any parade in the city, and Los Angeles had quite a few. I have been a spectator at the big ones and the small ones, from the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena to the Armed Forces Day Parade in my hometown of Torrance. I had dreamed of being in a parade since I was a little girl, and when I joined my high school marching band I got to march in the Rose Parade and the Armed Forces Day Parade, playing my saxophone with pride or twirling a tall flag.
In later years, I began to participate in other aspects of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game. I would work every New Year's Day as an usher at the game (still do, by the way -- how else would I get into see the game when my alma mater, University of Southern California, plays? I can't afford those tickets!).
My hometown had a volunteer organization that helped design and decorate the city's float in the parade, so I signed up to help decorate Rose Parade floats and learned a great deal behind the scenes. It was then I realized how I had done everything regarding parades except ride a float.
So when my stepmother-in-law called with an offer for my daughter and me to ride on Engine 229 representing the Lushmeadows Volunteer Fire Crew Co. 29 in the Mariposa County Fair and Labor Day parade, I jumped at the chance. After all, I'm well-qualified for the duty.
When my husband and I were cleaning up campgrounds and parts of El Portal after the flood in Yosemite in '97, our work crew trained as a forest fire crew and learned how to dig paths in a fire zone. I got my firefighter II qualification card. If there's ever a fire, and if there's a shovel around, I am qualified to use it.
The parade was too short. And hot.
The heat wave was in full force, even at the higher altitude of Mariposa County. I sneaked some water pistols in my bag. My husband joined my daughter and me on top of the fire hoses on the truck and rode down the street as the sirens blared. We waved and squirted people who looked too hot. To my surprise, everyone we squirted stood up and begged for more.
My daughter lost her firefighter's hat right in front of the judges' stand and the parade announcer picked it up and handed it to the driver of the truck behind us. We shouted and waved; my daughter practiced her "princess wave" (for future parades). We had fun.
There are lots of parades coming up as the holiday season approaches. Almost every town here in the Central Valley will have some sort of Veterans Day parade, Christmas parade or town festival parade. These parades are put on by local people celebrating the day and small-town life. Take the time, brave the weather and be the ones who show up to participate, either as a spectator or find out how you can put your own entry in the parade.
Believe me, it is a lot of fun to ride a firetruck, play a horn or twirl a flag in front of a big crowd moving down the street in any parade.
Holt is a wife, mother and student at Merced College. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.