Last month, I took AJ to our first ever Homecoming Day parade. I grew up in Miami and went to school in Hollywood where our Homecoming traditions consisted of a Spirit Week and a football game. When my sister-in-law invited me to come to the parade, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. Was it an early Halloween parade? A fall parade? A just-for-fun parade? She explained that it was for Homecoming and that just confused me even more. I had never heard of a town having a Homecoming Day Parade and I was very intrigued. I quickly decided that AJ and I would go even though Adam was working and wouldn’t be able to join them, so we made plans to meet at our friend’s house and walk to the parade from there.
I was excited that the parade wasn’t far from our house and so curious to see what it would be like. My sister-in-law told me a little bit about what to expect and also mentioned that the marching bands from the middle school and high school would be performing. I was in the marching band in high school and had been part of many parades in my four years of playing trombone, but typically it was a Christmas parade and a Spring parade and that was it. However, I had no inkling about what kind of music the band would play at a Homecoming Day parade. Maybe “The Fight Song”?
Either way, I was beyond excited to go and see for myself. So, Friday afternoon on the day of the parade I packed AJ up and drove the two seconds down the street to our friend’s house. I then pulled out his stroller, strapped his cute little behind in and we all started walking the three blocks towards Downtown. It was beautiful outside, the sun was out and warm when you stood under in it’s light, but the wind gave the most exquisite breeze and made it just chilly enough to need a sweater. It was a perfect day.
My nephews had empty grocery bags and my brother-in-law filled me in that the parade marchers often threw candy for the kids that attended the parade. I thought that was pretty cool. My older nephew and niece are in the middle school marching band, so we stopped by where they were hanging out to say hello and wish them luck before we went to find a good spot to watch the parade. On the way down, my sister-in-law pointed out a few floats with “Class of ’75”, “Class of ’85” and “Class of ’98” on the banners hanging on the sides. She explained that every year for the parade, some of the alumni would get together and make a float for the parade. They would treat it as a class reunion of sorts. I thought that was super cool.
As we walked closer to our two block Downtown strip, my eyes went wide behind my aviator sunglasses. There on the sidewalks lining both sides of the street were dozens upon dozens of people. I turned to my sister-in-law, “Does everyone in town come to this?” I asked, my eyes still taking in the hoards of people laughing and talking on the sidewalks. “Pretty much,” she answered as we parked our strollers in front of The Hair Company.
We saw so many people we knew, some of which didn’t even have kids in the parade or children waiting to catch candies. They were simply there to support their community. It instantly gave me the warmest feeling I had ever felt and I couldn’t keep from smiling as the parade finally started. The bands marched down the street, one by one, each playing a catchy song for the parade viewers to enjoy. Even the bands from the neighboring towns performed! I couldn’t feel prouder watching my niece and nephew march in our town’s middle school band with such confidence. It looked like they were having so much fun and it made me remember how much fun I had during my years in band.
After the bands, came the alumni floats and some of the local businesses promoting their brand and showing their support for our high school’s football team, who would play in the Homecoming game later that night. The class floats came after that and it blew me away how beautiful and elaborate they were. It was obvious that the kids in the individual classes took this parade very seriously and that made me enjoy the parade all the more.
And then the finale; the high school football team and cheerleaders proudly perched on a fire engine. It was surreal. It was so inspiring to see these kids and these people showing their pride and love for their town. I remember feeling like I had stumbled upon something so special when I agreed with Adam that we should move to this town. A town where I knew no one, but quickly felt as though I had family- real family- surrounding me and making me feel like I belong.
I couldn’t keep myself from tearing up at how everyone was cheering, the kids shoveling candy into their bags as they were thrown by the people in the parade and I remember thinking, Thank God I have my shades on or people might think I’m crazy for crying at a parade.
I know it sounds strange but the fact that almost the entire town was there, in one place, for no other reason other than to support their local high school and show pride for their town was something I never dreamed I would experience. I mean, we used to have a ton of people come to our Homecoming games, but nothing- I mean absolutely nothing- compared to this. A parade thrown to celebrate Homecoming.
It’s been one of the greater experiences I’ve had in this little, tiny hidden treasure of the world and it makes me wonder what else is in store for me.