Teri Orr: “A handful of vets, a line of cadets…I love a parade!”
In case you have missed the memo: the parade for the 4th will be held on the 2nd and there will be no fireworks on either night. (Given the drought and the fire conditions I think we can agree on the firework ban.) If this feels confusing don’t worry – it is. If you are new to town you might think that we may also alter Christmas or Rosh Hoshana or even Presidential Voting days. And I can’t tell you the current bunch in City Hall won’t possibly do that. We seem to be making rules that are convenient rather than correct. Popular rather than precedent.
We have not always been this arbitrary and capricious. In fact, in my 40-plus years here I don’t think we ever moved the 4th off the 4th. I understand our celebration has become wildly popular and we have always been one of the few that would hold the celebration regardless if it fell on lots of people’s Sabbath. And that brings people to Park City. And that is our history.
In a bunch of loose historical accounts, you will find Park City was “discovered” by two Army guys who had been part of a regiment sent from the north/east to watch over the Mormons in Salt Lake City. They would go up on the weekends to pan for gold (they found the silver as a sidebar to looking for the gold). The North feared Utah might secede with the South. All those hangover names like Dixie this and that are left from those Civil war days.
Park City was the Sodom and Gomora for the entire state …. It was our unwritten requirement to make up our own rules. We had saloons and a red light district with a peg-legged Madame who ran a proper House of ill repute right there in Old Town across from where the Kimball Art Center once stood. Now some national chain stores are there. Mother Urban was storied to be a big-hearted woman who always gave to charities. And she had competition. Heber Avenue that runs up into Deer Valley was where all the other Houses were and the railroad workers would frequent those tiny houses with the “soiled doves” and leave their red lanterns out front — should any from the railroad team need to find them in the night.
Now we have cowboys and cowgirls on horseback and old tractors and marching bands and military color guards as part of our parades. There are goofy floats from local businesses and families and a Harley bike group and always the firetrucks and the police bikes. Sometimes a snowplow. The politicians usually pass on the 4th parade and save up for the Miner’s Day parade — a small local sacred holiday here that celebrates the end of summer (Labor Day) but really was started to honor our mining history.
So my little family, who have spent most of their lives living in and around Park City, now can’t come to the parade this year because they have to work — the parents and the teenagers. They were angry when I tried to explain it to them last week and these are not people with anger issues. We have a regular place where we sit and friends we sit with. We cheer on – almost – everyone. We cheer All the floats, we Stand for the Honor Guard, we clap for the marching band and we wave back to the people we know on the floats and those we don’t. It is about as cinematic Small Town Americana perfect as you could want.
The parade was so small the first year I was here it went down Main Street to where the old Depot is in no time at all and then went back up Swede Alley and came down again. We cheered just as loud the second time.
I haven’t seen the Night Riders in the parade for years. I think they might have aged out. They were beautiful women dressed as those former working girls from Mother Urban’s who rode sidesaddle in the parade in full regalia. And then when they got to the Alamo ( Okay, The No Name, to most of you now) they took the horses right in and had a shot. Maybe two. And then came back out and finished the parade.
The Barking Spider Band — created by the old founders at KPCW — came a few years later and they, too, made a detour at the Alamo. The Kazooms marching band might have been just for Miner’s Day but they were an all-women kazoo band with giant balloons stuffed under their tight t-shirts. There was a single male… majorette leader.
The Rotary Precision drill team was short lived and the majorette for that group of all men was a lovely woman I worked with at The Park Record who was the head of the ad sales. They called themselves the Rotary Mowers. She carried a weed whacker as her baton. The “drill team” was a bunch of guys driving their riding lawn mowers who threw grass clippings out to the crowd.
Back then the Rugby players tossed out those tiny yellow roses that used to grow in such profusion in Old Town. They would toss them out all the way down Main Street because they had sacks of them — they grew everywhere back then. Really, everywhere up there.
We have now become so politically correct and sanitized we have become anesthetized. I fear we will become another parade in a soon-not-so-small-town that literally thinks we can change dates of holidays when they don’t suit us. And in so doing, we eliminate the very people who want to/need to see the parade and hear the laughter and cheer on the folks who need to know they are valued and appreciated. The City made a very bad decision when they decided to move the parade to a workday. They ignored the pleas of those with businesses and those who needed to be working. So many kids who would LOVE to see the parade and could be there for free, easily, with their families on Sunday — will be in daycare while their parents are working. I am angry, sure, but mostly I am sad that next week we won’t have our parade on the 4th of July — for now, still a Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of the TED community since 2007 and founded TEDxParkCity in 2009.
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