The June Dairy Parade is an annual event that winds through the main streets of Tillamook to celebrate June Dairy Month. It lasts all Saturday morning and is full of music and color. You never forget your first dairy parade because, at least from my experience over the last fifteen years, they’re all pretty much the same. Except for the theme. And the horsepower.
1962 Dairy Parade Princess and Court
The theme of my first parade back in 1999 was Moving Toward The Millennium. It was the best parade I’d ever seen and continues to be—even better than the Rose Parade and Macy’s. Not because the floats are flashier and the marchers more glamorous. Just the opposite. It’s a parade of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The parade goes on rain or shine. Hey, if you can milk cows twice a day, no matter if it’s flooding, or below zero, or Christmas, you can show up to celebrate the month honoring what you do. As it turned out, the day of my first parade was blue and sunny.
A boy scout carrying the American flag led the parade, followed by more boy scouts on their bicycles with crepe paper wound through the spokes.
Then came Tillamook Dairy Band, crisply brass and decked out in green T-shirts, blue jeans, and tennis shoes. Well actually, there was also one pair of chinos and a pair of white denims, a teal T-shirt, a flowered Hawaiian shirt, and four pairs of work boots. The cymbal player was a middle-aged housewife happily crashing up the rear.
When the flag passed, everyone rose. Except for a moody teenager in grunge. His mother ordered him up, and the crowd cheered her.
The Dairy Princess and her court rode regally by in a Y2K CowPliant Float. All peachy in their youth, gowns, and enthusiasm for milk, these girls did not seem to be the usual pedestal divas but robust young women who already knew how to shovel away the shit to get where they wanted to go.
Mayor Bob McPheeters came through, high on the back of a convertible seat, waving a carton of—yep—Tillamook milk.
The Mayor’s Award went to a big white cloud of a float built by Tillamook County churches and sponsored by Genesis Computer Services.
An exterminator company turned its cardboard guns on a big jiggly millennium bug, followed by a flatbed carrying the Coast Swingers in full square-dance regalia, the men promenading their partners home to the sound of fiddle and caller.
Then the Rodeo Queen rode by on a stately chestnut followed by the Cascade Sweethearts on palominos. They weren’t princess cowgirls. High up in the saddle, they were fine looking women in chaps and hats who had some serious rodeo skills and could likely put away a good steak after kicking some butt.
Manure movers dressed as clowns entertained the crowd as they cleaned up the street, making way for the Sons of Norway, the Swiss Society, and the Clan MacCleay Pipe Band, all in their native dress. And from Tillamook’s Pioneer Museum—the original stage coach from George Grayson’s 1906 Line.
|Representing the Sons of Norway in 2011|
There were antique roadsters carrying important people. And modern cars carrying outstanding high-school students.
There were quilters and loggers, Rotarians and utility workers, bus drivers, travel agents, RV repairmen, educators, state politicians, and dogs, lots of dogs, both dressed up and plain, some led by volunteers caring for those needing a home.
The VFW was also on hand, both men and women, along with the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and a memorial commemorating all those who gave their lives in World War II.
Local drill teams and dance students marched by in their satins, children in all shapes and sizes, all snappy and earnest whether in step or out.
Habitat for Humanity showed up in their tool belts.
And the Shriners came from all over—in a Mickey Mouse band, a band dressed like Arabs, a legion of bright green and gold lines, a cheerful crew on scooters tooting all kinds of horns, and large men who’d stuffed themselves into tiny zig-zagging bumper cars.
Then came the Elks.
Followed by the Ladies of Elks.
And what would a June Dairy Parade be without cows.
Some Moovin’ Toward the Millennium.
Others Moving Toward the Moollennium.
All followed by more clowns cleaning up.
And drums to beat any brass band.
To get the full effect, I’d chosen a spot by the reviewing stand. Behind the the stand was a guy with a video camera balancing himself on a ladder. A sticker on his camera said NEW VISION. The man himself was wearing a pinky ring and silky black shirt. At the foot of the ladder was another man, fortyish, in pressed Levi’s, an Izod jacket, and brown deck shoes without socks. He had a printout of all the floats in the order of their appearance. The numbers of some were circled, and he was telling the man with the camera what to shoot:
Skip the homeless dogs. But get the loggers and Habitat for Humanity.
And the white-suited Rosarians, ambassadors for Portland, City of Roses.
I was trying to decide if the old Rosarian men in white suits and white straw hats looked too much like a bunch of creepy banana republicans to be this parade when the man with the list looked at his watch. “Where the hell are those County Commissioners?” He had another shoot after lunch in Lincoln City.
I heard some local politician recently voted out of office say he’d hired these guys to make a video he could use to lure world-class fisherman into our bays.
Suddenly, the cameraman climbed down from the ladder and rushed past me to the curb. “Those retarded recyclers up next are award-winning material,” he told the guy with the list.
Like the man with the list, he was also wearing Levi’s. Only his weren’t pressed. Just kind of starched looking.
The camera man had moved from the curb into the street for some footage of Fire and Rescue volunteers hosing down the mock smoke coming from mock burning house and then pulling a dummy from a mangled car.
Afterward, I looked at the sweet pink face of the Fire and Rescue volunteer dressed in heavy canvas, folding the fire hose back into the big red truck. Not more than twenty-five, he would drop anything in a heart beat to risk his life for me, for the guy on the ladder, for the guy with the list.
Finally, the County Commissioners passed by.
With that, it was a wrap for New Vision.
The man with the list stuffed the list into the back pocket of his pressed jeans.
The cameraman packed up his camera.
The man who hired them folded up the ladder.
And off they went, efficient and wordless.
The crowd dispersed, happy and chatty and full of color.
All of us Moving Toward the Millennium.