In late May, in August and again last week, our family participated in birthday parades. May and November parades celebrated children’s birthdays at farms with only family members driving their vehicle of choice.
August’s birthday parade celebrated the 115th birthday of my great-great aunt, Iris Westman in Northwood, N.D. More than 100 people joined in to celebrate Iris and it provided fabulous entertainment for all long-term care residents in Northwood.
At the May and August parades, our son, Hunter, rolled through the parades in his wheelchair. The unexpected moments of joy in a terribly trying year grip me and remind me to pause and appreciate moments I didn’t know were possible at the beginning of 2020.
I asked my daughters, ages 11 and 12, about their thoughts on the 2020 family birthday parades this year. They shared:
“Everyone is happy at birthday parades.”
“All of them have tractors and agriculture equipment in them.”
“Probably cheaper than a birthday party!”
The reality is . . . it is cheaper and less work. For all the effort I’ve put into kids’ birthday parties through the years, a simple parade reminds me also that less sometimes creates more memories.
Do you need a birthday to create a parade? No. Organize a neighborhood Christmas parade. A New Year Eve’s parade to give good riddance to 2020 and celebrate what is ahead for our families, communities and country.
Parades in a pandemic can safely gather groups and keep us active. They allow us to show support for one another and to celebrate milestones that may otherwise be put off until “next year” or never again.
Last week, as we pulled into my grandma’s farmyard to line up for the birthday parade for my niece and nephew, we gave big waves to my brother-in-law, dad, siblings, uncle, aunt, grandma and cousins. We didn’t gather in the house together, but we saw each other with the line of vehicles linking us together.
A smile spread across my face seeing the people I miss gathering with. It helps me to think ahead to the day when we can safely meet again for celebrations and holidays. When more than 30 of us met up at my parents' farm for my grandma's 90th birthday and Christmas celebrations last December, I never once thought of not meeting up again in the summer as we always do. But then came coronavirus and pandemic cancellations.
At last week's parade, each family sat in vehicles of choice: a grain truck for my dad, a tractor for my brother, and my adult cousins rode old homemade go-carts of our childhood and a lawnmower. As much as I longed to grab a brownie from Grandma’s kitchen, we stayed in our vehicles.
The parade drove down the quarter-mile to my parents' yard where my birthday-celebrating niece and nephew and their moms waved at each family and vehicle. The horn of the truck blared. As I stood up through my husband’s sunroof to capture the only picture I took, I heard shrieks of happiness and excitement from my niece.
What will she remember about her seventh birthday? Not the details of a global health pandemic, but instead her first-ever birthday parade on the farm where she was given candy, a piñata, balloons and gifts on a 25-degree day.
Rural and farm folks always have a special knack for creating their own entertainment and fun. With the seriousness COVID-19 surging through our communities and state, you can choose to create a celebration memory, no matter the location or weather conditions you face. You don’t need to wait for someone else to plan it.
Call your family members. Email or text your neighbors. Post on social media. Create your 2020 parade. Notify your local media if you’d like. Post signs where you can. Be inclusive to those around you, giving anyone a chance to share in a moment of celebration at a time when gathering for celebrations looks different than we’ve experienced in our lifetimes.
Celebrate a milestone, the holidays, your community, frontline workers. I recommend a parade to break through pandemic hard times for a few joyous moments to create happy memories.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at email@example.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.