07 October 2006

Harvest of Harmony

I attended the Harvest of Harmony parade in downtown Grand Island this morning. This parade began in 1941 and is in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the parade with the most entries -- I think that was in the 60's. The Harvest of Harmony parade contains primarily marching bands from all over the state. When I was a kid, we'd always go early and get hot chocolate because the morning was typically very cold. Today was an exception. We're having an atypical warm October and it was in the mid-70's throughout the parade; although in true central Nebraska fashion, the wind was blowing up to 30 mph.

Watching the bands with my folks is a geography lesson in Nebraska small towns. There was one band that they didn't know the location of so they hailed someone down who was clearly with the band. Turns out, they're from a consolidated school very close to where my dad grew up.

I remember one Harvest of Harmony parade where I volunteered at the high school football field concession stand. After the parade, the bands have a marching contest on the football field at sr high. I sold hot dogs and twizzlers during one of these events. It sucked. I think I smelled like hot dogs for days afterward and, of course, it was freezing cold!

I don't fully understand the allure of a parade. Marching bands must be a truly American activity (at least for teenagers at school and for college), but I know there are parades in other places in the world. I once saw a parade in Italy on Palm Sunday where a bunch of folks dressed like the KKK walked through town and to the main cathedral, escorting a gilded chariot that contained a mannequin of Jesus. There were no marching bands.

Wikipedia says parades are typically a celebration of some kind. The Harvest of Harmony parade is a celebration of the Harvest; a celebration that has taken on a variety of forms throughout human history.

So, today, I participated in an ritual typical of agricultural societies; a ritual of celebration, thankfulness and relief that we have a harvest to celebrate.


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