When I am home in Southern Oregon, I teach Broadway Dance for Boomers and Beyond classes. The following blog is our experience and a few photos of our exciting time at the 4th of July parade 2018.
It’s 5 am and still dark as I drive the empty streets of Ashland to find a place to hold our spot on the designated waiting street above the start of the parade. The Ashland Oregon 4th of July parade is no small-town event. It is famous for the thousands of people lining the streets from northern California to Oregon. Parade goers scramble to tape down blankets and chairs 24 hours before to hold their spot, politicians come from all over the state of Oregon, jets fly over, and every type of group and business you can think of enters the parade. This year I took my summer session of Broadway Boomers.
The actual parade didn’t start for hours, so the first task, at the wee hours of the morning, was to decorate the car. We didn’t have a float to dance on, but we did need a little car just to carry the big speaker that would blast our music above the throngs of cheers along the route. So, we decided we might as well spruce her up a bit last minute. We added material wrapped to look like theater curtains, balloons, signs, and even a gold top hat to top the little blue Toyota. My favorite sign along the side said “Still dancing after all these years” as in Paul Simon’s classic “Still crazy….”
Broadway Boomer classes attract a wonderful and varied group of retired teachers, lawyers, nurses, and everything in between. The average age of the dancers is 60 to 80, but the whole parade experience had us all feeling like kids from beginning to end. We weren’t there to be perfect, we just hoped we could make it down the whole parade route without parts of our bodies giving out. And, though a smaller group than the usual classes because of summer, those who showed up were mighty and raring to go. An hour before the start of the parade, the parade judges came by to judge our entry for our entry in the adult category. They had us perform our dance routine in place, which was almost as fun as the parade itself. Then we waited for the results as the judges walked around to all the groups. It didn’t matter if we won or not, we were just there to have fun.
To our surprise right before the parade began, the judges came by and handed us our 1st place sign to carry! They said our entry was inspiring and they loved our message. We all jumped up and down and screamed like an Olympic team who just won the gold. How often do people in their 60’s and 70’s get that experience? How often does anyone get that experience?
Finally, after hours of waiting, the parade started. The many groups, cars, horses, bands, and floats that were lined up on various streets, were slowly funneled into to the parade route. The wait to go on can be brutally long. I had secured a good place in the lineup for our street, and was also a bit of a squeaky wheel, requesting to go early because the group was more “mature” (yup, I pulled the senior card), so we were funneled in fast.
And we were off… Music blaring, top hats and ties glittering and throngs of people cheering as we danced along the street. There is nothing quite like a group of Baby Boomers and seniors with gold tap hats, dancing a choreographed routine down the street to the song “One” from A Chorus Line.
I lead the group so they could follow the routine, which had me feeling a little too much like a majorette in a marching band, but mostly I was pre-occupied with making sure the music was loud enough and trying to keep the dancers moving forward. They were so used to doing the routine in the dance studio in place, that the one rehearsal in the parking lot had not been enough to get them all moving forward efficiently, and we created a big gap between the group before us. Not a big deal to most, but the parade officials kept trying to get us to move forward faster, so I stressed a bit about that. But the crowd loved us and cheered loudly as we passed. All of us made it to the end of the whole route in one piece, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Driving home buzzing from the energy of it all, I started thinking about next year and how to do it even bigger and better. However, someone else will need to volunteer for the 5 am shift.