As a journalist, I go to a lot of parades. Celebration parades, holiday parades, fair parades, homecoming parades, and parades just to parade – I’ve been to nearly every kind imaginable, sometimes as many as a dozen per year. Over the years, I’ve learned one thing about them: I hate them. Except one: the Bancroft Good Old Days Parade.
I hate parades because they’re all the same. The same floats, the same pacing, the same fire trucks, the same horses that always manage to do their business in front of me, the same politicians trying to get my vote with a Green Bay Packers schedule, the same spectators getting in my space and the same hot weather making it an uncomfortable experience. You probably get my picture.
I like the Bancroft parade because it dares to differ. Yes, many of the floats and fire trucks are still the same, but it’s the only parade I’ve ever been to in which you can expect a different surprise every year.
A little history: I’ve been going to the Bancroft parade all my life. Growing up in Wautoma, my grandparents took me to the parade on occasion as a child, and for 10 years I covered it for The Waushara Argus in Wautoma, just as I cover it now for The Gazette. As a kid, I loved the parade because my candy haul was always huge. Bancroft people are generous in throwing out candy, and as a kid this was just like Halloween, except I didn’t have to work so hard or find items around the house to put together a really bad costume that didn’t come close to resembling what I was trying to be.
As a young journalist with the Argus, the parade wasn’t nearly as enjoyable because it usually meant I was working on a Sunday when I could be trying to sleep off my Saturday night. But as a family man who brings his wife and young boy to the parade, I have more time to appreciate what the Bancroft Good Old Days Parade offers.
This includes beer. In past years, Pop-A-Top, a restaurant tavern in downtown Bancroft, has handed out cups of beer, much to my pleasure. I’m not a big beer drinker, but a beer at the right time can be the greatest drink in the world. The right time for me is usually on a hot day after physically working hard at some endeavor, when I’m grilling out, or during the middle of a hot parade when the mundane insanity of all that is happening around me is starting to become intolerable. Suddenly it becomes tolerable again.
This year’s parade didn’t have any beer. Maybe it was because the weather wasn’t nearly as hot as it’s been in past years, or maybe the Portage County Sheriff’s Department told them that’s not a wise decision. Or maybe it’s the economy. Regardless, my sixth sense must have figured not to expect any beer, as I went into Pop-A-Top prior to the parade and purchased a bloody mary. I asked the bartender if it was ok to take it outside, fearful of violating any open intoxicant ordinances, and she told me anything goes during Bancroft Good Old Days.
Anything goes. I like that. I also like that even without beer, the parade still has plenty of surprises to offer. In other years, we’ve received giant dill pickles, potatoes and cheese sticks, the last two of which we received this year. New this year was a giant beef stick. I can’t even remember what business handed them out, but the person who made that decision was a genius. Nothing spells greatness better than a giant beef stick.
In addition, the parade is quickly paced. Half an hour and it’s done. I wish the same could be said for some of the long, drawn-out parades I go to.
As home to the world’s greatest parade, Bancroft should think about offering parade clinics to other communities. Heck, I’ve even been to a parade in New York City, which could learn a thing or two from Bancroft.