S.E. Livingston: Neighborhood parade epitomizes Americans' pursuit of happiness

It's not the Superior or Cloquet Fourth of July parades I'm looking forward to. This year our neighborhood is going to have the biggest Fourth of July parade we've ever had in the short, four-year history of the event.

It's not the Superior or Cloquet Fourth of July parades I'm looking forward to. This year our neighborhood is going to have the biggest Fourth of July parade we've ever had in the short, four-year history of the event.

Ernie and I have been working on float ideas for months. Initially, I envisioned a 6-foot bust of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, rolling down the street. All spring I would save the cream-colored dog hair shed from our yellow Labrador and glue it on a chicken-wire frame -- this would look just like skin.

I was defeated before the project got off the ground, however: I hate dog hair too much to ever handle it.

The next idea was to have a car-sized helium balloon in the shape of a hot dog, an American icon. But my sewing skills rendered only a suggestive brown ellipse. I really needed to plan for a bun.

Instead, we're just going to dress Annie up like the Statue of Liberty and have her stand in the wheelbarrow while one of her brothers pushes it down the street. Simple, yet symbolic.


The great thing about this parade is that we're not aiming for the Mayor's Choice Award, and this isn't Pasadena. We're just a bunch of neighbors who get together on July 4 to be silly and celebrate our freedoms.

This whole thing was started five years ago by our neighbor Louise. She and her family were sedately riding their bikes one July 4 afternoon past all the porch parties in our neighborhood. As they biked past, the neighbors waved, yelled greetings and added to the holiday air.

Revamping her bike route, Louise and her family turned around, biked home and resurrected their costume box. The family of four donned clown, vampire, belly dancer and Jedi costumes, got back on their bikes and rode up and down the street, attracting the hoots and hollers of all the parties in the neighborhood. Everybody had a good laugh, but Louise didn't forget what a healthy, shared laugh it was.

The next year Louise invited her closest neighbors (us). We put on streamers and wigs, scrambled onto bikes and wagons and then paraded up and down the street. As we went by one of the porches, the people did "the wave" as we rode by. We walked by again and they did the wave again. It was too funny.

The next year we were ready: We bought bags of candy to throw at the parade watchers. Our out-of-town holiday guests had to stand on the roadside while our group went by. We threw candy at them. Then they had to speed ahead of the parade and stand at the next block. We threw candy at them again.

Last year was our biggest parade yet. Six families got into random costumes. The important thing here is that you show up ready to have fun. This is where adulthood and sobriety can be a liability. Seven families were invited to be part of the parade, but one family felt too silly to participate. It is ridiculous to dress up in a costume and walk up and down the street you live on. We all crave for people to take us seriously. We want the Joneses to know we are important, significant people.

But our whole country is based on the power of the people pursuing goals of freedom and independence. The "people" in this instance are the families in our neighborhood. The pursuit is simply shared happiness. This pursuit of happiness is so contagious and worthwhile that it is totally worth looking foolish.

Anyway, as we came to the last block of the parade, we heard cheering and yelling from one of the audience porches. There was frantic movement as a wooden stand was pulled out of a garage and a small assembly of excited people assumed positions behind a "Free Freezies" stand. As we prepared to pelt the parade audience with candy, the parade audience began to hand out freezies to the parade. Hilarity broke out at all corners of the intersection. The kids were shouting, cheering and wildly throwing Tootsie Rolls. The parade audience was shouting, cheering and handing out freezies by the fistful.


The funniest thing is that we don't even know each other. We all live in the same neighborhood, see each other weekly -- ducking into garages, putting out the garbage, giving vague waves -- but on July 4 we stood in the midst of our neighborhood laughing with each other and enjoying the pursuit of happiness.

Have a happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Monthly Budgeteer columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife, mother and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in northern Minnesota. E-mail her at .

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