A tale of two parades

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It was the best of events. It was the worst of events.

The parade, with 60-something entrees, was big enough to draw thousands of people out on a recent Friday night. Starting out near the Main Street and Second Avenue intersection, one of the first things that lets us know that it’s starting are the bright lights of a police car. The car segues into two local Boy Scouts of Troop 17 carrying the banner. Following them are the color guard from Franklin High School, along with the JROTC Battalion. Slowly it continues along, the crowd cheering as bands of Franklin and Southampton high schools march by, the Franklin-Southampton County Fair, and also members of both local school systems.

Without really noticing, the closest building has become Mr. D’s Southern Kitchen.

It started with a big applause. The Sussex Central Marching Tigers stopped near the restaurant to stand and perform. The area was mostly full of small children and parents.

As the dancing began, a hush came over the crowd, as the parents and grandparents nearby stood surprised at what they were seeing.

As the parade continues, the life comes back into the crowd. That is, until a similar hush comes over the same group of people when the Dancing Divas walk by, their song selection blaring curse words and promoting drugs and alcohol.

I had not fully grasped what happened with Sussex. This one, however, I take a mental note of and tell myself I’m going to ask some people about it when the parade ends.

Eventually, the hush over the crowd passes again and life comes back into the parade. The other bands in the parade go by, and they are cheered. At least two that pass us after that are even playing Christmas music (One was Greensville County, and I don’t recall the other one).

I’ve done my best to stay situated where I was, as I want to grab as many parents as I can once things quiet down a little. One, I took some pictures of their children interacting with the parade, people handing out what I think are books (maybe Southampton County Public Schools?) and other treats. And two, what happened with the Dancing Divas? What happened with Sussex?

Unfortunately, by the time Santa Claus arrives, I’ve been moved back to near the train tracks, and even more unfortunate, my first few pictures of him don’t come out well, so I end up following him back close to South Street to make sure I get a good one. To his credit, he continues to smile and pose diligently.

By the time I get back to Mr. D’s, most everyone’s back in their car. I suddenly come to the realization that I’m packed DEEP into a parking lot, just in time for Franklin to show that it can do standstill traffic with the big boys of Hampton Roads.

I head back, noticing the teenagers hanging around the tracks, but I didn’t think anything odd about it and continued to my car, where I’d be stuck for a good 30 minutes trying to make my way to First Avenue from edge of the parking lot.

The first thing I notice is a car full of teenagers speed INTO the parking lot, where I’m stuck. They are trying to get somewhere very fast, but discover that there’s no route back to civilization on that end of the parking lot, so they speed back out of the parking lot, disregarding the orderly line and almost hitting several of us poor law and order abiding saps stuck back there.

Then the police show up. Four or five cars, lights flashing. They pull into strategic areas to block traffic going certain ways, and others pull into the parking lot nearest to City Hall, and they all make their way toward High Street. The fast-driving teenagers give up on their goal of making it to to that street, and instead turn toward Franklin Street. Their driving calms down.

I consider going and having a look at High Street, but with where I’m at, there’s no way to abandon my car at this point without REALLY making some people behind me mad.

I figure it’s just a wreck and that it’d still be there by the time I get to High Street and can park my car somewhere less likely to get keyed. I get there, there’s nothing to see, and I slowly make my way to The Tidewater News office. I completely missed the drama that had unfolded, even though I’m barely a block from being at the right place at the right time (for a journalist, anyway).

The weekend sort of begins at this point and not a thought is given to the events in front of Mr. D’s.

Until Monday, when I go through my pictures, and I discover what must have upset those parents with Sussex. The high school girls of the band — the minimally dressed dancing section, anyway — are pictured getting VERY low and taking a move from Miley Cyrus’ 2013 Music Video Awards performance.

Just like Miley, it left very little to the imagination. And I hadn’t noticed it.

I’ve become so desensitized to this type of thing that I didn’t notice that a parade, which was supposed to be about — and for the most part was about — Christmas, had turned into a tasteless music video somewhere along the way. If a hush hadn’t come over parents and grandparents in the crowd, I may have never thought anything of it. Score one for the MTV generation.

With the ultra-violence in video games, the moral ambiguity glorified by reality TV shows, and twerking in Christmas parades, I can only imagine how much worse off the next generation of children will be.

CAIN MADDEN is the managing editor of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at 562-3187 or at cain.madden@tidewaternews.com.