Thursday, September 05, 2002

Something to cheer

Everyone loves this parade

        You going to the parade?

        You bet.

        Every year, I get the same question — and give the same answer.

        No self-respecting West Sider would miss the Harvest Home Parade. Nowhere else do you get quite the chance to compare yesterday with today and think about tomorrow.

        Starting at 6 o'clock tonight, the long line of floats, marching bands, fire, police and life squad contingents, military groups, good deed volunteers and clowns — from political circles as well as the circus ring — snakes its way through Cheviot to signal the start of the 143rd annual Harvest Home Fair.

        Used to be the parade and fair were just West Side things. People in the parade and the 10,000 to 20,000 lining the route used to look a lot like me, fat-headed and pasty.

        Now there's a rainbow of colors in the sea of faces. Good deal. Everybody's welcome to enjoy this parade.

        Now you hear different accents. Besides German. When last year's parade ended, a Hispanic dad tried to round up his young son and head for home.

        My Spanish is rusty. But loosely translated, it sounded like he said: “We're leaving without you.”

        The boy grudgingly joined his family. But not before sneaking a look down the road in hopes one last float, crepe paper decorations aflutter, was struggling to catch the rest of the parade.

        Such incidents are the reason my neighbor Tom Sandmann calls the parade the prelude to “the world's fair.” He's only half-kidding.

Salute to firefighters

        This year, world events come to the parade. Solemn tribute will be paid to what occurred Sept. 11, just five days after the 142nd parade.

        The Harvest Home Fair celebrates the year's harvest. On 9-11, America reaped a bittersweet crop of terrible losses and acts of courage.

        Since then, the nation has been buoyed by an indomitable spirit. The deeds of rescue workers everywhere are being honored by the theme of the parade and the fair, a salute to the firefighters of America.

        For the first time in Harvest Home history, parade-goers are being asked to bring a flag.

        “Big or small flag, doesn't matter — just so you wave it,” said parade chairman Dave Backer. He runs the three-hour marathon for the Cheviot-Westwood Kiwanis Club, organizer of the parade and the fair. The club uses both events to raise funds for the community.

Lawn chair city

        The parade's serious theme will take its place among the event's lighter traditions.

        The night before the parade, lawn chairs line the route. Families stake out their favorite curb-side viewing spots.

        By law, the chairs should appear only 24 hours before showtime.

        Steve Neal, Cheviot's safety service director, told me “little old ladies want to beat me up over the phone because they want to put out their chairs earlier.”

        He reminds them of the law. Most obey. A few early birds don't. Either way, no one messes with the chairs.

        Outsiders might call that quaint. To me, it's standard parade practice. It goes with the annual comparisons people make of the high school bands. Some look larger than last year. Others look microscopic. Large bands or small, the crowd applauds the kids marching in winter-weight uniforms.

        Dave Backer doesn't think the memories of 9-11 or the parade's theme will dampen the applause.

        “We'll see a closer-knit group,” he predicted, “holding hands and waving their flags.”

        When it's all over, they'll promise to meet again. Same place, next year. Hoping for a longer parade and a better harvest.

        Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail



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