I grew up in Southern California suburbia.? As kids, my sisters and I had a box of “safe and sane” fireworks (not the big one, but what we could afford) that we would set off on Independence Day.? Piccolo Petes would make ear-piercing whistles and cones would sputter a range of sparkling eruptions, but nothing that would blow your socks off.? Literally or figuratively.? By junior high, celebrating the Fourth of July was more about sitting back and throwing some burgers on the BBQ than really observing Independence Day.? Go to a Fourth of July parade?? How old fashioned, how un-Californian.? When my wife, daughter and I moved to the Isle of Man in 1994, we observed a different July celebration, Tynwald Day, but more on that next time.
Fast forward to after we returned from the Isle of Man in 1999 and moved to Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California.? On the Fourth of July in 2000, I stepped back in time.? We went back to small town America when it was cool to be patriotic and local amateurs were appreciated.? My wife and I went to watch the Independence Day parade in Nevada City.? I felt like I was on the set of the Music Man.? The short stretch of Broad St. that is the main drag had its Gold Rush era buildings festooned with bunting.? Flags were everywhere, on lampposts and buildings as well as in the hands of most of the spectators lined three, four or more deep along the sidewalks.? As the tongue-in-cheek
Ophir Prison Marching Kazoo Band and Temperance Society led off, dressed in prison-blue shirts and shorts with Capt. Rufus T. Whizbang leading the way with toilet plunger held high, the crowd broke in to wild cheers.? They were surprisingly good, with brass, reeds and drums.? Different local groups and individuals followed in many varied costumes.? Some had homemade floats, some were in oft-classic cars and others just marched.? For every entry, the crowd applauded and yelled encouragement.? This was so not California, the land of the jaded and the blase.? I loved it.? We even went to the county fairgrounds afterwards to hear the Ophir Prison Band again, as well as the performances of an Elvis impersonator and various local groups.? When the night darkened the sky, fireworks lit it up.? It was a heady experience.
Now that I’ve lived here for almost 14 years, I still go to the parades.? However, now I march in them with the Gold Country Celtic Society.? Our precision marching unit carries the flags of the seven Celtic nations (name them, if you can) as well as those of the UK, Canada, California and, of course, Old Glory.? Maybe calling us “precision” is pushing the envelope far past literary license since our only practice is lining up a half hour before the parade, but we did tie for first place for marching units two years ago and won first last year.? Like I said, it’s small town America.? No doubt having a piper gives us a leg up (but you’ve got to be careful when you do that in a kilt).?
The crowd goes wild when his bagpipes begin to wail.? The location of the parade alternates each year between Nevada City and adjoining Grass Valley, but the feeling never changes.? I will be marching again this year, my third year as the Society’s Parade Marshall.? It is supposed to be about 100 degrees, but I’ll be in kilt like several other of our Society’s marchers.? It’s all part of being in small town America in a time warp.
Oh, the seven Celtic nations?? Although some are actually regions of larger countries, they are Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and Galicia.