When did we lose the concept of a parade? At one time, a time we can remember, a parade was moving entertainment. We stood still and the entertainment passed by in front of us. Now, all you see on the street is the entertainers marching to the TV presentation area. Perhaps ambling along or waiting in shear boredom for their turn to perform is a better description of what you will see.
Of course, the reason for the change is TV. At Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day parade, even the people sitting in paid bleacher seats only see the backs of the performers, who are facing the TV cameras on the opposite side. The performances have been taken over by the professionals and are thinly disguised advertisements. As Mickey Mouse cavorts in front of the camera, TV viewers hear the artificially jolly hosts read the copy describing why you should visit Disney World. A professional dance troupe will be advertising an opening show. Even a group of bumbling toddlers will be advertising “Miss Kathy’s School of Dance—now accepting students.” The local high school bands perform last to keep the proud parents watching.
To point out the contrast, you can still see the original concept of a parade in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Years Day. They still have it right—a stream of floats continuously performing as they pass in front of the crowds. The gorgeous floats have always been advertisements for corporations, but they are so expensive we can accept them for what they are with gratitude. The TV cameras are not as important because TV is an obviously poor substitute for actually being there.
A few years ago, Thanksgiving in Philadelphia fell on a balmy, spring-like day and my wife was in St. Louis visiting her sister. All alone with nothing to do, I took the SEPTA train into center city and walked up to the Art Museum to see the parade for the first time in over 50 years.
I think I got there about 10 a.m. (pretty good, I thought, coming all the way from Delaware), but the TV coverage was already over. Almost the entire length of the Parkway was filled with waiting high school bands. But the weather was good and the spectators made their own entertainment. The photos I took describe it better than words. (Click on photo to enlarge.)