About 15 people and one much-petted arthritic old dog waited by the road next to the little Lamont Grain Growers building, where wheat prices are posted in the window.
There was small talk and glancing at watches. A towheaded preschooler announced he was running away “forever and ever,” but no one seemed alarmed.
Then it happened.
“Here comes one,” said the guy who appeared to be in charge.
“It’s Art,” someone else called out.
And everybody looked way down the road at the man running toward them.
“Yes, it’s Art all right,” said a man nodding his head.
A few onlookers clapped. Others called out his name.
The Lamont Jaunt, a sun-soaked 3.2-mile fun run, was about to have a winner - he finished in 20:43. But Lamont Day, a celebration Saturday in this town of fewer than 100 people tucked in the northwest corner of Whitman County, was just starting.
By the time the last of the 30 or so entrants had made it to the finish, Art - a thirtysomething guy with sandy hair, a thin beard and a hole in one of his sneakers - was back from a shower and change of clothes.
Spectators and participants gathered in the middle of the lowtraffic main drag for a low-key ribbon ceremony. Several wore their new blue Lamont Jaunt T-shirts. Then it was time to get ready for the parade.
The staging area was several blocks away, over by the school, not far from the sign declaring that Lamont is a “Nuclear Free Zone.”
Maybe 75 people lined the two-block route, some in lawn chairs. A woman near a car displaying a “Proud to be a farmer” bumper sticker stood ready with a video camera. “Somebody do something fun,” she said.
The parade got under way about 15 minutes late. But inasmuch as almost everyone knew it would last only about 10 minutes, there hadn’t been much fussing - except from a few of the toddlers who were actually in it.
The parade proved to be a perfect smile-producing cross between utterly lame and disarmingly sweet.
In addition to restored vintage cars, it featured a farm truck adorned with balloons, a house cat named Joe being pulled in a little wagon, a horse and buggy and the winner of the Lamont Jaunt riding up in the volunteer fire department’s red truck.
“Hey, Art,” someone yelled.
Art waved. , DataTimes MEMO: Being There is a weekly feature that visits gatherings in the Inland Northwest.