To this day I can’t recall who came up with the idea. It very well could have been yours truly, although God knows there are plenty of other likely and worthy suspects.
It was the last day of the Fall Festival of Leaves, the annual event that still draws thousands to our little town of Bainbridge, Ohio. People come in droves to the festival to witness the beautiful fall foilage, visit the craft booths, ride the carnival rides, eat Funnel Cakes and to watch the Grand Finale of the festival – The Fall Festival of Leaves Parade. But let’s digress a bit . . .
Back when I was in my early 20s, I was part of a group that, every year in late May, took part in the Annual Innertube Regatta. The Regatta basically gave a group of my friends, guys and girls alike, a reason to float down Paint Creek on innertubes while enjoying adult beverages and having a good time. We’d float down the creek with a dog or three along for the fun, stopping at a cliff to do some diving and having a picnic under a tree along the bank. We always had an innertube or two holding a net that kept our brews chilled.
But back to my story. A few days before the Festival, a bunch of us fellow Innertube Regattians were sitting around bored out of our skulls. At some point someone came up with an idea – let’s crash the parade.
Yep. You read that right.
You really have to understand our mindset at the time, but as incredible as it seems this seemed like the best idea ever. And so it began. After some brainstorming (and I use the brain part loosely), it was decided we’d use the Innertube Regatta as our theme. The night before the parade we put our “float” together. It basically consisted of three stories of scaffolding sitting on a hay wagon. We threw on some boards to sit, stand and lay on, added some innertubes and streamers, and were good to go. Oh, and we also had a big INNERTUBE REGATTA sign that was falling off before we got a third of the way through. And did I mention the beer tubs, one on each level of the float? Hey, the men and women of the Innertube Regatta Renegade Float couldn’t go thirsty.
Oh, and we were to be pulled by a buddy’s old Model T. What could possibly go wrong?
The beautiful part of our plan was this – we constructed our float in a barn right off the parade line-up street. All we had to do was open the barn door and enter the fray. We even had a guy, Big Tom, who could stop the parade whilst we slipped into the mix. Trust me when I say that if anybody could actually stop a parade, it was Tom.
As the parade start drew nigh, 20-odd guys and girls awaited inside the barn, perched on our rolling monstrosity. We were ready. Soon the signal was given and the barn door opened. The renegade float was about to enter the parade and into festival infamy.
As we pulled out Tom simply hopped off our float, walked into the middle of the parade line-up, and raised his hand to stop whatever parade participant was next. It may have been the One Man Band, I can’t be sure. In any event, when Tom raised his hand to stop you, you stopped.
We were in.
We soon turned the corner onto Main Street and passed the main parade stand, the one where the dignitaries sit and the guy announces what’s coming next. In this case there was no description for what was coming next. One, because we weren’t on the line-up card, and two, because we were indescribable. What was coming next was a float to end all floats, a towering, wobbly construction that, for a second, didn’t appear capable of squeezing under the first stop light.
As we waved and acknowledged the cheers from the crowd, I remember the announcer frantically looking through his notes, trying to figure out who the hell we were. I think the Tipp City Mum Festival Queen or somebody was supposed to be next so he was, shall we say, perplexed.
I also remember watching politely clapping people as their faces turned slowly from smiles, then to confusion, and eventually to disgust.
To the horror of festival organizers, we rolled on.
Of course, at some point somebody thought it would be a good idea to throw a beer to the crowd, which led to many beers being thrown to the crowd. This was wrong on many levels, not the least of which being that it was probably against the law. At the time, watching two 9-year old kids scramble over a beer was funny. Today? Not so much.
Imagine being one of our friends, attending the parade, and looking up to see the Renegade Float rolling down the street. What would you do? Why, join us of course. And join they did, people occasionally breaking from the sidewalk to run and climb up the wobbly sides and onto our Rolling Hay Wagon Pulled by a Model T Scaffolding Float from Hell.
We continued unimpeded, because really, once you’re in a parade how are they going to stop you? I suppose they could have tried to redirect us down an alley or something but they were all too stunned to act. Besides, we didn’t really look like the type of group you’d want to attempt to stop. Long story short we made it through to the delight of a few and the outrage of many.
The Renegade Float had run its course successfully (well, depending on your viewpoint) and into festival lore.
I have no recollection of returning the float to the barn. I think we may have jumped off and scattered at some point, who knows. And I recall no ramifications resulting from our buffoonery, as after all, no laws were broken. You know, if you ignore the whole tossing of beer to random people thing. Bottom line? I don’t remember anybody getting into any sort of trouble at all.
If it happened today I’m sure folks would be beside themselves with indignation, demanding our heads on a platter. We would probably be charged with inducing panic or some sort of terrorist act. Alas, it was a simpler time.
There once existed a picture of the Renegade Float, undoubtedly taken by an innocent bystander who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The photo showed smiling faces, long hair blowing in the wind, beers and heads held high, unadulterated joy on our faces. It was majestic, really.
I wonder if that photo is still around, hiding in somebody’s closet at the bottom of an old box. If so I sort of hope it stays there.
No doubt the image in my memory is much better.
Originally published on October 19th, 2012.