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How to Watch a Parade -
Forward, march!

July 5, 1998

Well, I just had a fine Fourth - how about you?

Walking down to the Mall in Washington, D.C., it occurred to me that I should share with the world how I watch a parade. Sorry this crucial information was too late for '98, but there will be other opportunities.

Watching a parade can be either a painful experience or a lot of fun - depending on how you go about it. Here is the painful way. Just stand there. Or sit. Either way, it is so slooooow. (And this from someone who has absolutely no tolerance for the annoying "quick edit" style of video work that has evolved over the last few decades.)

Another problem is that a particular act - possibly one of your favorites - might be inactive when it is right in front of you.

My own favorite component of a parade is the marching bands. If you remain stationary, you might only get a part of a song, or none at all - at least while the band is in good hearing range. As loud as brass and wind and percussion instruments are, in the great, open outdoors their sound dissipates dramatically. You only get a good blast when the band is directly in front of you. And even then, the volume of the instruments that have already passed have dropped noticeably.

So here's how I watch a parade: I march along with the bands. (Beside them, that is, not in them!) This gives me a crisper, louder sound from the bands - and I hear complete performances from each one.

And, I get whatever exercise you get from walking.

If you're willing to give this "urban, musical hike" a try, you'll find it's a much more involved way of watching a parade. What you do is walk at or near the front of a band so all of the instruments are more or less blasting in your direction. When a band finishes its number(s), you just turn around and walk upstream until you meet up with the next band. That one may be in the middle of a number, or just in its rat-a-tat-tat mode. Either way, hang with it until you've gotten a whole song.

As you walk upstream, you'll have a good enough look at everything else - the guy on stilts, Miss Iowa waving from a Ford Mustang, the Shriners in their go-carts, etc. If you're a people-watcher, you get to see much more of the crowd.

For those who haven't yet realized how cool marching bands are, I wish I could rattle off a bunch of knockout tunes I've heard along the way. Unfortunately, my memory doesn't work like that. One rocking highlight that does come to mind is the old Beach Boy tune, Barbara Ann ("ta-ake my ha-a-a-and...")

I have half a mind to get rich some day, so I can call up an arranger with my wish list of tunes for marching band. First on that list will be the Beatles' "Within You, Without You". Whew, I can hardly wait!


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