I've just returned from the Western Days parade in Twin Falls and I honestly don't know where to begin.
Weeks before the parade, news broke that this year the organizers of the parade were allowing the Southern Idaho Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Community Center to enter the parade if they used the name "Southern Idaho Community Center" and promised not to display their rainbow colors. Now, remembering that last year their entry was rejected, I thought maybe the organizers were trying to be less confrontational, but then news came yesterday that a group of Magic Valley High School students would be protesting the float. Didn't really seem to be much different. You can be in our parade if you play by our rules and call yourselves what we say you are.
Never noticed a single protester. I noticed quite a few people gawking at the float, but not much more than that. And get this, I never even spotted any name of an organization on the float. Just people holding signs reminding the still closed-minded Magic Valley that the members of the community center contribute, too. Plus pigs and pumpkins and the other symbols that for some reason have attached themselves to the Western Days parade. To be quite honest, had I not read something in the paper prior to the parade about them planning to display a large question mark, I may not have even realized what this float was about until it passed us and the bold lettering on the back was visible.
The irony in all of this is that the general consensus in the Magic Valley throughout the week was that the float had no place in the parade and yet it was one of the least overwhelming, in-your-face displays in the entire parade. On more than one occasion, my kid brother walked away from the road because he felt the people handing things our were getting too far into his personal space. And I felt like any number of values were being shoved down my throat.
What do I mean? I came home this evening with a copy of the Ten Commandments on a smashed penny, a flyer inviting me to visit a rebirth ceremony, flyers with contact information for any number of churches and denominations, and a brochure from Living Waters, the school of biblical evangelism that Kirk Cameron is associated with. Maybe I'm sheltered over here in Pocatello when the most religion ever forced on me at a parade is completely Mormon and by choice when I attend the Pioneer Day Parade, but wow, that was a lot for one day.
On both political and religious levels, the parade was a little over the top. Seemed like the theme of the parade was missing, I'm assuming that Western Days was the theme, though I couldn't really tell what connected any of the entries.
There were parts of the parade that were a welcome reprieve from the chaos of a sea of Republican candidates and the numerous vehicles that were just cruising along with their corporate/business logos on the side. We especially enjoyed the El Korah Shriners and the marching band--both my brother and I were/are band nerds, but only one of us will admit it. It was also nice to see some Democrats participating in the parade. I met a very nice woman who is running for the state legislature from Twin Falls County, Carolyn Elexpuru, she was very friendly and took the time to introduce herself and thank us for our consideration even after I told her I don't vote in her district.
Both our Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District and our candidate for the U.S. Senate were at Western Days. We spotted Debbie Holmes from a distance, on the other side of the street from where we were sitting, but mostly spotted this fellow, actually might be Debbie's husband, who was carrying her sign and telling everyone along the way to vote for a "real progressive candidate."
Of course, there were non-religious elements to the Western Days parade that were equally frustrating. The floats for Sharon Block, Jim Risch, and the other Republican candidates were not nearly as intimidating as they could have been. Granted, they are on fairly safe terrain in Twin Falls and they don't need to be doing in-your-face campaigning at the Western Days parade. Rex Rammell must have felt otherwise. Rammell was as in-your-face as possible. Not only were we graced with the presence of that monstrosity he's cruising around the state in, we got the Rammell Sisters in on the action, too.
As far as I could tell, Jim Risch did not take part in Western Days, despite the fact that he had one of his enormous signs--you know the ones with the color clash--sitting atop a pickup. His smugness never ceases to amaze me. Guess he thinks he can just stride into Twin Falls, capture the general election, and ride of into the sunset. Funny thing, had Jim Risch actually been at the parade, he may have been the most western part of it!
Last, but certainly not least, I have to make mention of U.S. Senate candidate and former U.S. Congressman Larry LaRocco. The man lives for these parades! His campaign style blows me away and the reception he is getting in the Magic Valley speaks to his effectiveness. This car turned up early in the parade, but Larry was nowhere in sight. I figured he was probably a bit behind, shaking hands and all that. I asked one of the people walking the parade route in those bright yellow LaRocco t-shirts where he was and they said, "he's bringing up the back."
As much as I would have loved to see Larry, I'm not the Idaho voter who needs to shake Larry's hand and I was thrilled to know that Mr. LaRocco was somewhere near the end of the long parade meeting as many Idahoans as he could, shaking each of their hands, and undoubtedly promising to make Idaho a better place for them, their kids, and their grandkids.
Despite some of the lower points and the sunburn I'm now sporting on my face and in the part of my hair, there's nothing quite like the Western Days parade and until you have seen it in all its glory, you haven't really lived in Idaho.