July 7th, 2010

A Parade Virgin No More: VDB Takes The State Senate Campaign To The Best Fourth of July Parade Of All Time; Generous Richmond Residents Do Town Proud; But Harsh Realities of Weather And Want Threaten Absolute Patriotic Harmony

by Philip Baruth

So yes, this State Senate campaign has been underway for a good fourteen months thus far, which has made our campaign folk true battle-hardened veterans when it comes to kick-offs and teach-ins and tweet-ups. But the fact is that until this past Fourth of July, we were Parade Virgins. And we had chosen maybe the County’s most demanding and celebrated route: the Richmond Fourth of July Parade.

Anyone with experience on the Trail could have sensed the possibility of danger. But we were just apple-cheeked kids who’d never yet Walked the Route with the professionals. And it was a hard lesson we would learn that day.

Reaffirming and sustaining, but a hard lesson still and all.

We formed up around 10 am, dodging the ATV’s and the horse carts and clowns, and it was a stalwart group: Allen, Jay, Dana, Mary Lou, Mikki, Kathy, Matt, and young Noah. Wonderful people, who would march with you into the jaws of Heck. We laughed and joked innocently, unaware of what was to come. We kidded around with other candidates, and all seemed right with the world.

Except that it was very sunny, and about 900 degrees. But still, a gorgeous beginning.

And then it was time to head out, which we did, in pretty stylish formation. Heads held high, ready to gladhand every man, woman and child in Richmond.

But almost immediately, we noticed something: young Noah began giving candy to every child he passed, every single child, although we’d tried to impress upon him that we had only three baskets of candy for the entire route. But he was listening to some inner voice of fairness, a voice that told him each child must have candy. In hindsight, we should have seen what would come of this, but again, at this point we were blissfully ignorant.

So blissfully ignorant, that when I went over to encourage Noah to save some of the candy, to hold some of it back for the future, pretty much the reverse happened: I could see how deeply happy the candy was making all the kids on the route, and how happy it was making Noah to give it away to every hand outstretched.

So I started doing it too. And it was a revelation: never had more fun than wading into the crowd and delivering sweets to people with huge smiles on their faces. But it was a rush that needed candy to fuel it, and of course, the candy was quickly dwindling. Very quickly.

But by this time I was too euphoric to care: drunk on the beauty of the place and the generosity of the people, drunk on the actuality of America.

All too quickly though, reality set in. The candy was nearly gone, and we rounded the corner onto Bridge Street to find the bulk of the crowd, a crowd that was perfectly willing to embrace any act or float or candidate. Provided they threw candy. Noah put his basket on his head. Suddenly, for a moment, it was every man/woman for him/her self.

Dana ran into the convenience store on the corner and came back with two bags of hard candy, a valiant effort, but in another hundred yards we’d thrown all of that, and waving and handshakes only go so far for the kids in the audience. Not to mention the thirty-somethings who were doing The Wave on a hillside, pretty elaborately, and who wanted something in return from the parade.

Up we went, over the new bridge, and on toward one of Richmond’s claims to fame: the Round Church, one of the prettiest sights in all of New England. But beauty doesn’t make you cooler, really, and by now we were broiling like lobsters. Lobsters without candy.

Which is when, out of nowhere, we were rescued by the Welch contingent. The Congressman and his people have been down this parade route many times, and they’d packed accordingly: out came their emergency stores of candy from bags and belly-packs, and so we just closed ranks with them for the final quarter mile of the route.

Did people on the last quarter mile of the route mistakenly believe that our campaign was throwing candy when in fact we weren’t? They may well have done so.

We hadn’t thought far enough ahead, true, but we were right behind a campaign that had, and some days that’s good enough. Double thanks to the Welch crew.

And then the Parade was over, and everyone dispersed into the big field beside the river, and ate hot dogs and drank Fanta and talked about the race for Governor. Just the way you always thought a parade should end, back when you were a kid, and you used to stand on top of a high hill overlooking the route and yell as hard as you could, and hope the beauty queen riding in the candy-apple-red convertible would somehow, against all odds, reach you with a miniature pack of Milk Duds.

Thanks again, Richmond. And many thanks, as always, to Kathy FitzGerald for the beautiful photos of the day.