Who loves a parade?
To call the annual Joe Cain parade a “procession” has become an understatement for the outsized Mardi Gras event that spilled out into downtown Nevada City Sunday.
A throng estimated at 8,000 gyrated, hooted, flashed and drank their way through the good times along Broad Street, paying homage to a man who allegedly married 12 women, a Civil War veteran who never visited Nevada City.
It hardly mattered under strikingly cloud-free skies, where men, women and children were five rows deep along Nevada City’s downtown streets, celebrating.
Karin Kleinhans of Nevada City brought a good friend along Sunday – her leather-clad Dalmatian, Maia.They parked themselves near the National Hotel.
“This is the best parade I’ve ever been to,” said Kleinhans, who grew up a stone’s throw from Pasadena, site of the Rose Parade. “It’s a great family parade. Everyone’s throwing beads and having a wonderful time,” she said, holding Maia, who was outfitted with a black Harley-Davidson jacket and sequined hat.
“I’m a parade girl at heart,” Kleinhans said as Cajun music blared from speakers mounted across the street.
The parade commenced with the Lyman Gilmore Marching Band, its members sporting sequined masques and feathered headdresses. Like nearly every entrant in the parade, the group marched just slow enough so members could toss hundreds of plastic necklaces into a bead-mad crowd.
Politicians even got into the act, as incumbent Supervisors Elizabeth Martin and Peter Van Zant danced and played guitar, respectively, while tossing costume jewelry from their vehicles.
The Sons of the Golden West, men driving a horse-drawn 19th century hearse, tossed beads at people and buildings as several necklaces landed on the roof of the Mine Shaft bar, where they stayed until several men climbed up gutters to retrieve them.
“That’s my friend Jake up there,” said Danny Scott, pointing up to the Mine Shaft’s roof, where a man sat, watching from the highest vantage point.
In an instant, Scott and his friends Billy Nichols, Tommy Morton and Ryan Studebaker sprinted across the street, over the police barricades with “S.F.P.D.” on them, and shinnied up the side of the building to join their friend on the roof.
“This is cool. It’s the best seat in the house,” Scott said.
And as people downed 40-ounce Coronas and Budweisers on the sidewalk, members of the Grass Valley Temperance Union walked by, led ironically by a classic car sponsored by Bunce’s bar on Grass Valley’s Mill Street. They were followed by members of the South Yuba River Citizens League, who tossed plastic frogs and fish to the crowd.
Inevitably, a comparison to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebration came up a few times.
“This is more family-oriented than New Orleans,” said Court Powell of Yuba City. “It’s similar to New Orleans, just on a smaller scale.” Powell and his buddies, Alan Larson of Yuba City and Charlie VanHagar of Sacramento, rented a room at the National Hotel for the weekend.
“From Friday to Sunday, that’s all we do is party on,” said VanHagar, who said she would be out until the wee hours of the morning.
With New York City firefighters Joe Torrillo and Steve Merenda in attendance as grand marshals, the procession took on a slightly different tone, some said.
“This is about freedom,” James Makela of Rocklin said. “Freedom to be who you want and do whatever you want. It’s Mardi Gras, man.”
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