Gary Brown: Playing catch-up to the HOF parade

Gary Brown

We'll start this with me nearly running next to a parade, carrying a cup of coffee in one hand and an energy bar in the other, saying "Excuse Me" or "Pardon Me" or I think once "Comin' Through" to other parade watchers as I tried to catch up to a marching band. Maybe this has happened to you.

I love a parade. I've watched dozens of parades in my lifetime, so I should have known better.

Never arrive late at a parade. The early parade watcher gets the curb. Early to bed, early to rise makes a man wise enough to put his chair out early in the morning. You snooze and you lose all dignity and wind up hustling along a sidewalk trying to catch up to the sound of trumpet and trombone music.

But, I overslept.

That's why, when I arrived at the parade route near its beginning, more than 40 units already had stepped off. The parade had marched on without me. I was a handful of bands, several floats, more classic cars than you could count, at least one Shriner unit and quite a few character balloons behind everyone else in life.

Losing more time

I recognized the first band I saw when I got to the street. I could have settled in there and cut my losses. But, the sidewalk is always less crowded on the other side of the parade route.

Now you can't just cross a parade between units. You can't slip through behind a band and before a bakery's float.

"The antique bread wagon hit him first," a parade official later might report, "but I believe it was the vintage cars that finished him off. Don't know which one. Could have been the Model-T Ford. We barely got him dragged out of the way before the governor's car drove by ..."

So I went all the way to the back end of the parade, to the staging area, where marching musicians practice in place, where half-inflated cartoon balloons come to life, where convertibles carrying important people idle, and where clowns and Boy Scouts with poop scoopers begin to eye the mounted units. In the time it took me to watch a unicyclist warm up, the band was gone.

Catching up

Call me overcompetitive, but I wasn't going to lose the parade race to a bunch of high school kids burdened by brass instruments. I wanted, no I needed, to get in front of their banner. I hustled between families in lawn chairs. I ducked behind bleachers. I hastened across side streets. I slipped around souvenir sellers. I dashed in front of first-aid stations. I stepped over small children on blankets.

Where it got particularly crowded, I lost time on nonparade streets by going around the block, band music fading in the distance.

The exotic animal unit passed me. The Dennis the Menace balloon went by. The "Geek Squad" even left me behind.

Early on, I came close. I poked my head through the crowd and saw the drums going by. I think I could have kept up if I hadn't stopped in a fast-food restaurant for the coffee, "to go." When I came out, I heard marching music. I had caught somebody else's band. To me, that counted.

Reach Repository Living Section Editor Gary Brown at (330) 580-8303 or e-mail