Saturday, March 30, 2002

Opening Day


Parade can be city's fresh start

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        Save an Easter egg or two for Neil Luken and Mike Silverglade.

        They're going to be hungry after working Sunday.

        They'll join family and friends bagging parking meters from Findlay Market to Fountain Square. They're clearing a path for Monday's 83rd Annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.

        Along the way, they'll keep hoping history won't repeat itself.

        Last year, riots broke out in Over-the-Rhine the week after the parade. Findlay Market was in a war zone.

        “We all want Cincinnati to be a better city,” Neil said.

        “We want the city to get beyond the negative and go with the positive,” Mike said.

        These desires echo across town.

        The city has a chance to turn itself around as it approaches a day of unity, a day where goodwill reigns, a day ripe with the promise of renewal. That day is known in Cincinnati as Opening Day.
       

Everybody wants in

        Neil and Mike are, respectively, the parade's chairman and co-chairman.

        The two Findlay Market merchants are veteran baggers. Mike has been co-chair for 19 years. Neil, in his fourth year as chairman, has performed the day-before-the-parade routine, covering meters with “No Parking Today” bags, since 1979.

        The parade belongs to merchants working the 150-year-old market house. It's not a Reds event. If it were, every marcher would finish last. It's not a City Hall event. If it were, it would never get off the ground.

        Findlay Market merchants pick the parade's grand marshal. This year, it's Ken Griffey Sr. They'll let Marge Schott do the annual sounding of the siren to start this hallowed event at 11:30 a.m.

        This year, they invited the famous runaway cow to be among the parade's 150 entries.

        “We've also got 10 marching bands, plus 12 drill teams with kids as young as six,” Neil said.

        “No one — no parents, no schools, no band boosters — has said they wouldn't come down "to that neighborhood.' Nobody has canceled because of the riots.”

        Neil has so many potential entries, the parade is doing turn-away business.

        “This year, they're telling us they want to march in our parade. They see it as a privilege.”

        Mike sees it as a sign “the city is healing” from self-inflicted wounds.

        “Cincinnati has done a great job beating itself up over the last year,” he said.

        “We've already got one black eye from the riots,” Neil said.

        He's betting “no one at City Hall and none of Rev. Damon Lynch III's supporters wants Cincinnati to blacken the other eye.”

        So, on Sunday Neil and Mike will be bagging meters. And, hoping for the best.
       

Maybe next year

        While they prepare for the 83rd annual Opening Day Parade, they're looking ahead to the 84th in 2003.

        “The Reds will have a new stadium,” Mike said.

        “The Banks might be under way. The city might be ready to cap Fort Washington Way.

        “Cincinnati might be a new city. And not just in appearance.”

        By Opening Day 2003, the city's people could also have a new attitude, a new racial climate based on fairness, mutual respect and shared responsibilities.

        That is the promise of Opening Day. If everybody can stand side by side, as they do for the Findlay Market Parade, that promise can be kept.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; e-mail cradel@enquirer.com

       



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