Constitution Parade: All things patriotic
Waiting to march in the Constitution Day Parade on Sunday, John Quincy Adams paused to reflect on what the Marching Presidents and the day mean.
“The Constitution is important to remember and understand,” said Adams, normally known as Bob Foster of Grass Valley. “People come up and ask you questions,” so each person in the annual march has to know about who they’re depicting.
Hundreds watched Foster and many others dressed in period costumes as the Marching Presidents took their annual stroll down Broad Street in Nevada City.
Some 98 floats and cars participated in the parade, including NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman as co-grand marshal, riding in a horse-drawn carriage.
Others included an eclectic group: A truck towing a Civil War submarine, Shriners in go-carts, Blue Star Mothers, E. Clampus Vitus Chapter #10, Native Sons of the Golden West, the Merry Widows Society, the Lyman Gilmore Marching Band playing “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” the First Baptist Church of Nevada City and the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Nevada County, with an arc of rainbow-colored balloons.
Politicans Charlie Brown and Tom McClintock, who are running for John Doolittle’s congressional seat, walked in the parade.
Children, parents and seniors lined the streets in folding chairs or just hung their legs across the high sidewalks of upper Broad Street to watch, clap and cheer. The children collected candy as it was thrown into the streets.
The parade drew many out-of-town tourists, a relief to downtown merchants suffering from the prolonged economic slump.
“We loved the parade – all the patriotic things, the bands, the kids, all the flags on the street,” said Judy Marken, of Laguna Niguel, who came up from Orange County for the weekend with her husband and friends and stayed at The Parsonage.
She added, however, “I found a couple of things offensive.”
She said Barbara Bush wearing an Obama sticker, George W. wearing a “kick me” sticker, and the float of Republican presidential candidate John McCain riding a missile were all disrespectful.
“We’re so sick of that kind of thing,” she said. “Why not honor all of our presidents instead of being split apart.”
Marken enjoyed the Civil War re-enactment in Pioneer Park.
“It’s such a wonderful town and so beautiful,” she said.
Longtime attendees were soaking up the parade scene. Resident Madelyn Helling, of county library fame, sat in a chair at the foot of Broad Street, laughing and clapping.
“The crowd was in a good mood, there was lots of musical groups, and the weather was beautiful,” said Nevada City resident Paul Matson, who has attended the parade for more than 30 years and was an announcer. “It was a wonderful small town event.”
The Marching Presidents walked in pairs and were introduced as they walked by the announcer’s stand.
Dressed undeniably like Harry Truman complete with his bowler hat, Bill Holman of Nevada City was proud to be the feisty president from Missouri.
“Harry wasn’t popular when he was in office, but the historians have been kind to him,” Holman said. “He was a straight-shooter and he had to make the decision to drop the atom bomb.”
Standing nearby was Lynette Weiss of Nevada City, who was playing Teddy Roosevelt’s wife, Edith Roosevelt.
“When we shake kids’ hands, you should see the look in their eyes,” Weiss said. “With the country the way it is, this is a refreshing opportunity.”
Grass Valley resident Patty Sarkisian was dressed as Marilyn Monroe in the parade, because the iconic actress was a good friend of a president, though not a wife.
“She was a special guest for Mr. Kennedy,” Sarkisian said. “This is my 13th year, and it’s a total blast.”
Sarkisian’s husband, Noray, was depicting JFK. He didn’t wear a suit, but he brought his PT 109 life jacket to be safe and said, “I want to put a man on the moon.”
In a white gown, Karen Chizek of Nevada City was playing Frances Cleveland, wife of President Grover Cleveland, who was represented by her real husband, Frank Chizek.
“We’re original members, and there’s only four of us left,” said Karen, who include the Chizeks, Marching Presidents originator Dave Parker and Dave Carter.
“We’ve been marching in the parade longer than we’ve been married,” she said. “I got the women involved, because it was a little wild those first years, but we’ve all aged gracefully.”
Standing next to the Clevelands was John Tyler, who looked a lot like Joe Glick of Nevada City. It was his first year representing the president who took over after President Benjamin Harrision died one month into office.
“I survived impeachment from the Whigs,” Glick said as Tyler. “I’ve always watched the parade and I got drafted with the proper campaign contribution.”
Nearby was Marty Dinwiddie of Nevada City playing Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes. Dinwiddie is actually the great-grandchild of the former president and her grandfather lived in the White House as a child.
“I’m carrying lemonade because she was known as Lemonade Lucy because she wouldn’t allow any liquor in the White House,” Dinwiddie said.
Two years ago, politics interrupted the Constitution Day parade when a group holding a banner that read “Impeach Bush and Cheney” stopped moving in front of the announcer’s booth, apparently waiting to be announced.
This year, the parade was more subdued.
But as the Marching Presidents walked along in front of City Hall, someone placed a small American flag in some horse poop in the street. Some people laughed nervously, while others frowned.
To view a photo gallery of Constitution Day activities in Nevada City by Union photographer John Hart, go to http://www.theunion.com/photos.
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