As if the inflatable bookworm wasn’t big enough to see for blocks. As if the “Louie, Louie” wasn’t loud enough to echo in your head for days.
Nothing at Saturday’s Lilac Parade could be too big or too loud for Branden Spencer. To get the best view and the most surround in his sound, the 11-year-old climbed above the crowd and onto a fireplug.
As the tubas kicked in, Branden’s knees went rubbery with the groove - launching into what is likely the most well-balanced jig in Western history.
It was a time to let loose, go crazy and eat candy. And thousands did. School bands, soldiers and building-sized cartoon characters were the staples of the annual parade, which wound through more than two miles of downtown streets.
What was the best? Everyone was an armchair critic. Or in Clayton Jensen’s case, lawn chair critic.
Jensen sank down, took a swig of something icy and pink, and thought about it. “The one with the helicopter that went up and down,” he said. “That was coo-oool!”
That would have been the one labelled “Rescuers” from Freeman. It featured a giant, motorized snapping ‘gator Spielberg would be Jurassically envious of.
The attraction that got the biggest cheer? That was probably the truckload of ex-prisoners of war. When they slowed, the crowd let loose a whoop louder than a battery of rocket fire. The men standing in back - white hair beneath purple caps - beamed and waved.
Other big military hits were the Air Force plane - a giant go-cart piloted by a joystick. And then there was the guy that broke rank from a marching file of uniformed soldiers. He was completely covered in fluttering green and brown camouflage.
A man on the sidewalk nudged his buddy. “Swamp Thing,” he quipped.
If Swamp Thing got thirsty, he could buy some soda from Ben Beason.
Beason kept walking up and down the sidewalk, yelling above the sound of barking dogs and blaring horns.
“Watered-down overpriced Cokes!” the teen screamed.
“What’d he say?” everyone murmured.
Well, it worked anyway. Beason was almost sold out. School bands must work up thirst in onlookers, too.
But Alexander Mickschl preferred heavy metal. The real stuff. He wore layers of silver armor, buffed-up bright. That way, it reflected sun and kept him cool.
“It takes about 20 minutes to get all suited up,” said Mickschl, at the parade to plug the Northwest Renaissance Festival. “Assuming I don’t have a squire to help me.”
Even before the parade, the folks getting ready provided a spectacle all their own. Thousands lined the streets and gawked at the pre-parade show.
And that sound was everywhere.
Like a cross between a cow and a hacked-off goose, those long, plastic horns that every kid was buying and every vendor was honking.
“If I blow ‘em, they sell really good,” reasoned Kim Moses. “Otherwise, kids don’t know how loud, fun and obnoxious they can be.”
They knew. Oh, how they knew.
Amid the mooing, white-suited combatants demonstrated fencing in the street - slicing at one another with whippy rapiers.
At one end of downtown, a balloon crew was hard at work. Droopy Dog and Andy Panda were already inflated, reclining and bobbing on a mattress of air, held there by a circle of volunteers.
Underdog was just getting his breath of fresh helium. Robert Bare, 12, and Kammy Major, 14, held on tight with balled-up, gloved fists. It wasn’t tough yet - the dog was still a pile of folds on the ground. But as the inflating machine fired up, Underdog’s wrinkled cape unfurled and his belly started to grow round.
“It’s tough to control him when a big wind comes,” Bare said as he leaned back, bracing for the load, feet planted firm.
If anyone was getting bored, well, they didn’t show it. But just in case, the Jamborade started up. That’s the parade-before-the-parade. A man belted out Neil Diamond’s “America.” Drill teams hammed it up in the street.
Georgia Welton’s baby wasn’t quite sure what to do.
“This is our little girl, 7 months old,” Welton said, introducing her pride and joy - a llama named Dynna Mite. The fluffy critter stopped, watched the squirming kids through her big, soft eyes, and wriggled her black nose side-to-side.
“This is her first time out in public.”
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