Model A’s, guns plus side-stepping pols in Harvest Festival parade
by Allen Best
Arvada’s big parade, the highlight of Harvest Festival, was held Saturday morning. The festival recognizes the city’s agriculture roots. Pascal celery from Arvada was once shipped to the White House. Arvada now is a city of 112,000 people with almost no agriculture and a civic identity blurred within the homogenized Denver-Boulder metropolitan area of 3 million people.
People frequently confuse Arvada with Aurora, to the annoyance of Arvadites. To local minds, Arvada is a garden, and Aurora — well, the usual comparison is to a desert kingdom. To those from elsewhere in Colorado, of course, we’re all just Denver.
The parade was a two-hour window of suburban sensibilities. There were high school marching bands, side-stepping horses guided by sombrero-hatted men representing a Mexican restaurant, and the El Jebel Shriners, black tassels hanging from their maroon fedoras, driving cars and motorcycles in a mini parade of their own.
A modest military presence was evident: the Colorado chapter of the U.S. Submarine Veterans plus a contingent from the Marine Corps recreating the famous flag-hoisting scene from Iwo Jima. Just after that came a puzzling entry. A business named Serenity had a float featuring a barrel made of pink tissue and a gray trigger. Confused, I asked the riders what the confection represented. A hair blower, I was told. The business is a hair salon.
Gun rights were specifically avowed in the entry of Laura Woods, a Republican state senator. Woods was elected in 2013 after a previous senator, targeted for recall after her support of gun-control legislation, resigned. Riding in a 1956 Pontiac, Woods was trailed by supporters hoisting signs: teachers, students, and homeschoolers for Laura, as well as probation victims and a self-identified Christian granny nurse. Just before the motorcycle riders for Laura was the Second Amendment.
However, instead of red, the chosen color of the Republican gang, Woods’ theme color was purple. That’s Arvada as a whole, a swing city in swings-both-ways Jefferson County, our state’s most populous. In both 2008 and 2012, the county—like the state—tilted toward Barack Obama.
Next year is anybody’s guess. Bernie Sanders, the chief challenger to Hillary Clinton, had a band of supporters, as did Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon from Detroit, who is second in polling among Republican candidates. Carson is African-American, but in Arvada, his supporters were mostly white-haired white men. I’d like to think that reflects the dissolving schism of race in America. Arvada, like many other Colorado communities, had an ugly chapter of white-robed Ku Klux Klan members shortly before the first Harvest Festival parade was held in 1925. Here, though, the KKK targeted Catholics.
Probably unlike the first parade, internal combustion engines were omnipresent on Saturday morning. Businesses drove their vans and cars, displaying company logos and phone numbers. How inventive! More interesting were the now-ancient vehicles: a 1947 Farmall tractor, for example, and then gussied up Model A’s from the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Home driveways built in 1930, such as mine, cannot fit the giant pickups and SUVs of today. The parade had plenty, including a white Denali, a Dodge Ram 350 and Ford’s big horses: F-150, F-250 and F-350 pickups. You need horsepower to pull floats, but there was something else. Often, the floats consisted of people sitting. Big internal combustion engines have come to dominate this parade, as they do lives in this big suburb. Most of us, including me, like our cars, but fumes from idling cars and trucks are another matter.
Horses might be better to smell, but not necessarily to walk behind. One year, parade organizers in Arvada ruled that all politicians had to walk at the end, behind the patoots of horses. The pols that year did some fancy sidestepping of certain issues. Still, their careful footwork looked easier than addressing the issues of Syrian refugees, income inequality or the inexorable reality of the changing climate.