Last night, the streets of our fair Bull City filled with thousands of Durhamites coming out to see the annual holiday parade. I'm no great shakes at guesstimating crowds, but I'd put a wag at 4,000-5,000 folks lining the likes of Blackwell, Corcoran, Foster, Morgan and Mangum to get a glimpse at the sights, sounds and (occasionally) smells of the constituent groups marching through the city center.
We had motorcycle cops and motorcycle rebels; ad hoc punk marching bands and the high school kind; local politicians and a pooper-scooper. (Note that the pooper-scooper was picking up manure coming from a team of horses, not the politicians.)
This was my first Durham holiday parade, and to be honest, it's a great and very authentic Durham experience. For the fourth-largest city in the tenth-largest state in the U.S. of A., Durham often has this really wonderful way of feeling like an overgrown small town, and there was a certain homeyness and comfort to this parade. Witty and a little weird all at once; the kind of thing you probably love if you like it hear, but can't stand if the Bull City isn't quite your speed.
Missed the parade? Let's take a photo tour through the festivities, including highlights of some (but by no means all) of the parade participants. To keep things interesting, I walked in the opposite direction of the paraders along the marked route, which is why the background keeps changing, FWIW.
A decent crowd came out to enjoy the scene, despite the day's brisk weather,
Now, we bloggers like to complain about the Durham Centre's design as being pedestrian-unfriendly, with no clear connection to the street level. Congrats to the legacy of Eighties architects everywhere for proving this observer wrong in one case: it makes a great perch for folks to watch a parade from on high. (Come to think of it, doesn't a design that elevates the viewer above the fray actually support and not disprove the point?)
In the lead today, law enforcement officers on parade, on their bikes, doing the CHiPS equivalent of synchronized swimming. This was a bit of a crowd favorite:
Then came Charlie Nelms, the parade's grand marshal, in his designated Saturn. The Saturns for Ellen Reckhow and Bill Bell sat empty, however, as the local pols shrewdly decided to walk amongst the citizenry:
...followed by Durham Police Dept. Chief Lopez and other law enforcement dignitaries onboard a boat marked by a message that, if not perhaps the most uplifting in this holiday season, is an important reminder to all:
Following the police boat was the... bomb squad? Yes, that does indeed appear to be a bomb disposal unit following along.
Bringing up the rear for government officials were three more members of City Council: Mayor pro tem Cora Cole-McFadden, Mike Woodard, and Farad Ali. (OK, Ali's not a member until Monday, but hey, it's the holiday, I'm in a giving spirit.)
Up next, one of many of the groups of youth participating in the festival; these, members I believe of one of the youth cheerleading groups, and a spirited bunch to boot:
Proving someone has a sense of humor putting this thing together, we next have a group of motorcycles revving their engines loudly, belching out smoke and the occasional backfire -- followed immediately by a Durham P.D. recruiting van. (Naturally, the police are never behind these motorcyclists' less civic-minded counterparts who own the 'crotch rockets' that zip up and down Roxboro, Avondale, etc. in the dark of night.)
Next up, the Bull City Cowboys, of whom one female rider had the line of the parade: "If gas prices go up any higher, I'm going to ride this horse to work." Followed, predictably, by a Durham staffer with a garbage bin to pick up, well, you know. (Here's hoping this cart isn't destined for a residential delivery; if you need a garbage cart, I might hold off asking Durham One Call for one for a day or two, you know?)
Next up, part of the Animal Protection Society of Durham's parade entry; this entrant had a sign that would have been much more appropriately snapped next to Major the Bull, which apparently didn't heed the APS' advice in advance of its installation downtown:
Another youth entry, this one from C.C. Spaulding Elementary, also standing out from the crowd for the energy in their performance--
Following Spaulding, the rather large entry from the Durham County Library, which besides Booker the library mascot and the bookmobile included the Library's book cart precision drill team. You didn't know Durham had a library book cart precision drill team? We sure do, and it's eligible to enter the American Library Association's book cart drill team contest. Those crazy librarians! (Durham's team has enjoyed some local fame performing before the County Commissioners and at other events, as this Herald-Sun article demonstrates.)
The Scrap Exchange was out in full force with the help of the Scene of the Crime Rovers, who delivered the best-choreographed and most tuneful of any of the adult musical options. Though there was still a shootout to follow between Southern and Hillside on the marching band front; more to follow there.
Followed by the Durham Seniorette Divas, 2006 N.C. state senior games champs in the cheerleading category, and looking good and looking spirited on their YMCA-sponsored float:
Duke Park's neighborhood association showed up for the show, complete with Beaver Lodge paraphernalia...
Close behind came the Southern High School marching band, performing a lively number and looking good doing it. (Riverside's marching band performed near the beginning of the program, too.)
One of the highlights of the parade? Surprisingly enough, the entry from Durham's Public Works department, which showed off representatives from throughout its fleet of vehicles, including a dare to Mother Nature to unleash its worst in terms of snow, and an automated trash collection truck that was, well, showing off how it picks up, dumps, and puts back down the curbside carts. Talk about government in action...
Durham's water management float followed, with what appears to be Patrick Baker sitting at the front of the float, and a gigantic, lifesize water droplet standing at the rear. HEY PATRICK! Get that anthropomorphized water drop up to Lake Michie and throw him in -- we should be able to get a couple thousand gallons out of a drop of water that big, right?
Hillside High brought up the parade's rear in their usual close-out position, leading into Santa's big appearance in town.
The last float left the DBAP/American Tobacco area around 5:20pm, with a tree lighting following the parade at 6:30. Sadly, I couldn't stick around for that -- perhaps one of our readers can share thoughts on that happening here in the comments?