Ashland's parade: For better or worse

The Fourth of July parade is now just another memory, fading as it does each year with the scorching heat. But a well-deserved final round of applause is indeed called for before we turn the page completely.

The Fourth is simply a massive endeavor, one that the Chamber of Commerce and hundreds of volunteers pull off each year with remarkable consistency.

Within that one sentence are many other items deserving of some degree of praise, criticism or both depending on the perspectives of those making the assessments. But in the simplest terms, we love the Fourth of July for the simple reason that each year on Independence Day Ashland experiences our community in its finest wonderful complexity, most deserving of praise, some scorn and always a degree of both. That's just who we are.

For four years the Tidings' editorial board has made mention among ourselves how quickly the loads of trash, flyers and other leftover debris from the celebration of the Fourth is seemingly whisked away with all the speed of an Olympic sprinter. But until now, we haven't gotten around to actually chronicling the well-earned praise.

A staggering amount of trash covers the city by the early morning of the fifth &

leftover remnants of everything from morning donut wrappers to Piccolo Petes from the waning night hours. Each year, by the crack of dawn, city of Ashland cleanup crews sweep through the city like riot police, rousting the piles of trash like Rudy Guilliani's police rousted transients in Central Park.

Of course we have some gripes. It wouldn't be Ashland if we didn't.

Long separations between entries along the parade route need to be tightened. From the outset the police push a rapid pace and volunteers practically overheat trying to get entries to keep up. But it never works. The large gaps suck the momentum out of the parade. Every year folks start leaving or walking down the route before the last entry has finished. Coupled with folks sprinting past parade onlookers trying to make up the gap, the basic chi of the parade takes on a less than tranquil aura.

This year's theme, "American Music," was a winner, except about half the entries that didn't bother to play or perform any music. Something's wrong with that. Carry a boom box, or at the very least an iPod for goodness sake.

The policy prohibiting throwing candy to the crowd was extremely disappointing. A huge part of the fun for both kids and adults is the mad scramble for sweets tossed out by parade entries. This policy needs to be reversed before it sucks the life out of another parade.

All criticism aside, the bottom line is this: even the worst July 4 parade in Ashland is better than the best parade anywhere else in the world.

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