Walking down Nash Street in the Wilson Christmas Parade Saturday afternoon, I waved to crowds of faces I didn't know. Many of them returned my wave. "Merry Christmas," I said to many of them and heard their greetings in reply. One spectator yelled out to me, "I read your blog all the time! Wish you were still at the paper." Surprised at the greeting, I could only wave and reply, "Thanks!" Occasionally, I would detect a familiar face and try to catch her attention. All the while, I kept walking and waving. This mile-long walk was not a physical challenge. It was more of a pleasant stroll, made more enjoyable by the sight of so many happy faces.
For 23 years, I lived a block from the parade's route, and my wife and I would gather up our children and walk down to Nash Street to see the parade. Too often, we would grow tired of the parade and head home before its end.
The parade has a different look and a different feel when you're part of it instead of a patient watcher from the sidewalk. The variety the parade offers to the watcher is nothing compared to the variety of faces and expressions the participants in the parade see. And even when the parade's momentum stalls on occasion, the pace for someone walking the parade is so much more lively than the pace for someone watching it. When I watched the parade, I might catch a couple of hundred faces. Walking in the parade, I saw a few thousand faces, ranging from excited children to dutiful adults who felt obligated to attend an important civic event to curmudgeons who wouldn't smile or laugh no matter what passed by.
After 20-some parades as a spectator, this was my third parade as a participant. The latter role is much more satisfying.