Like so many things, parades have their roots in politics and the military, as they forced the local population to witness the show of strength and cement their legitimacy as a ruler. They are a powerful way to connect to the community in the centuries and millennia before the recent globalization of information through the internet. Over time, they also became important parts of religious celebrations, most notably with Mardi Gras and its association with Lent.
Parades, as I have come to think of them, are an American phenomenon, made to become a big event by Macy’s Department Store in 1924. It was the first time a parade was used as an advertising vehicle where the employees also employed the use of animals from the Central Park Zoo. Now this parade is witnessed by millions, both in person and on TV, every year.
When I was 10 years old, my parents took us to Miami for the Christmas holiday. We stayed in a motel/hotel on the beach, and it was fun. My mother’s oldest brother was Percy Faith, the musical composer and arranger, and through him, my parents got to know Canadian actor Lorne Greene. As it turns out, the year we were in Miami, Lorne was the host of the telecast of the Orange Bowl Parade, and we got tickets to sit in the VIP section where the TV cameras would be able to film us.
It was a hot, sunny day, and the parade was long. I think my parents were melting, as it was not customary to bring water bottles with you to events back in the 1960s. But near the end of the parade, a float went by, and people riding on the float were throwing candy into the crowds. My sister and I were thrilled and excited, jumping up and down, and my parents were hot, bored, and tired. Luckily for my sister and I, and maybe unluckily for my parents, the TV cameras caught all four of us, in extraordinary contrast, and broadcast our activity across North America. My parents were teased relentlessly when we went home to Toronto early in the new year.
My favorite (not surprisingly) is the Calgary Stampede Parade. It is two and a half hours of grand displays honoring the history of cowboy culture, our native predecessors and their four local nations, the city of Calgary, and its neighborhood. Thanks to the quality of the Stampede Bands, a variety of other marching bands travel to Calgary from all over the world to participate in an international competition of good repute, and they also are featured in this parade.
Almost half the population of the city of Calgary comes out to witness the parade in person (Calgary has a population of almost 1.2 million people), and many arrive hours before it starts to get a prime spot to witness the parade. As a result, there is often more than one hour of pre-parade entertainment, resulting in over three and a half hours of grand western hospitality and entertainment that really puts one in a good mood.
The parade is the grand kickoff to the Calgary Stampede, 11 days of celebrating our local heritage. Calgary will have more than 1.5 million people visiting the Stampede over 11 days in early July, and I have to admit I do enjoy it.
The Stampede spirit takes hold of businesses all throughout the city. Banks, restaurants, and more decorate their businesses with western themes. In my office, for many years, we also decorate the office with a western theme, dress in comfortable, clean, western-style clothes for the week while treating patients, and bring the Stampede spirit of “yahoo” to our office every day.
I do love a parade. I wonder (tongue firmly planted in cheek) if AGD will have a parade to open its 2016 annual meeting in Boston?
Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD, FPFA