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Bells Ringing in Christmas Parade

Published: 12/16/2012
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

About 800 men, women, and children live in Swisher, Iowa.

Each December, the city planners organize an evening Christmas parade. Anyone can sign up.

Given Swisher's size, I figured riding in the parade would be like any other evening ride around here - a quiet, mellow affair. Maybe a few folks would stand on the sidewalk with votives, waving.

Heck, we can do that!

As the date grew nearer, I took note of significant pageantry preparation.
  • My co-workers at the KaVa House & Café worked for hours in the shop’s basement, like Santa’s elves, excitedly designing a giant coffee mug to go on top of a borrowed golf cart.
  • I noticed parade floats in various stages of development on neighbors' front lawns. A Nativity float here. A Hunter’s float there.
  • More decorations along the parade route were added and buffed up.
All the activity made me nervous. Better make a dry run, I thought.

For Shea, we first needed to address two new items close at hand:
  • Bells. I draped a heavy leather collar of brass harness bells around her neck. They chimed with every step. If she stepped quickly, they rang quickly (and loudly). It took a few spins around the block for her to come to terms with them.
  • Lights. I wrapped those bells with red and green, battery-powered Christmas lights. Surprisingly, she had little issue with them after their dazzling introduction.
On the eve of the event, we trailered to the post office and had a walk around with her new necklace. We walked past the bar, the general store, the library, the houses with flashing holiday displays. We stopped by the KaVa to say hello.

No problemo.

But on parade night, something tipped me off that it wouldn’t be the quiet and mellow outing I predicted.
  • Maybe it was the Christmas songs blaring over the loudspeaker. You could hear them from a mile away.
  • Maybe it was the fireworks.
  • Maybe it was the people. Hundreds of people with lights and loud voices and energy lining Second Street, a veritable vortex of holiday excitement.
Shea pooped. (I let her graze.)

Shea snorted. (I let her move and face the music.)

She was the only horse in a 10-float line. We got sandwiched between the KaVa float and the Hunter’s float (which was looping ZZ Top's "Sharp-Dressed Man" at full volume).

As we moved towards that tunnel of spectators, those floats faded away.

For a moment, Shea held the spotlight.

She pranced. One might even say she rose to the occasion.

Happy Holidays, All!
Thanks for having me, Swisher!

View Reader Comments:

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12/16/2012 Missy
So cool, Maddy. Thanks for sharing!!
12/16/2012 Santa
Shea, you might be able to pick up some per diem work. Are you busy on the 24th?
12/19/2012 Kathie
Way to go Maddy and Shea!!! We miss seeing you,but glad to be able to follow your adventures. Merry Christmas,:-))

"The ears never lie" - Don Burt