Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Rain on My Parade

Yesterday I had the opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for a long time, but due to scheduling conflicts never did...I attended the Conshohocken St. Patrick's Day parade (because it had been rained out on its original date and rescheduled to yesterday probably helped make this happen). Aside from my pride in celebrating my Irish heritage, I enjoyed it as  a wonderfully executed event and recognized that it spoke volumes about that community's commitment and unity. A community parade is as much a part of Americana as are Chevrolets and apple pie.

It reminded me of the time back in 2005 when Lower Providence held a parade as part of its yearlong Bicentennial activities. As I was on the Board of Supervisors at the time, filling in for a member who'd had to resign mid-term due to health issues, I had the privilege and pleasure of participating in that parade, riding in a convertible with one of the other supervisors at the time, Jim Dougherty. Passing by and waiving to residents who'd parked their lawn chairs and blankets along the parade route to watch, I distinctly remember how  proud I felt of our township  that day and how amazing it was that everyone had come together for an event whose sole purpose was to celebrate our beginnings all those years ago and our two hundred years worth of history since.

There was talk at the time of making it an annual event, but nothing ever came of that. While I recognize it's a lot of time and effort to put something like this on, I suspect that if you know you're going to do it every year, some things become easier. We could tie it to the Fourth of July fireworks and do it the same day, leading up to it. Corporate sponsors would likely be willing to underwrite some or all of the costs, which would primarily involve traffic control and public works - and they already do cover the costs of the fireworks event.

It would be a great opportunity for our civic groups, athletic associations and other local organizations to promote themselves and maybe do a little fundraising while they're at it. Think about it: we could have Methacton's reigning homecoming king and queen and marching band participate. Float entries from ARA, the Wolverines, the Cougars (and other sports organizations). School organizations, such as Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD). Perhaps the Optimists Club, the Lower Providence Historical Society, Mill Grove and Daughters of the American Revolution would participate.

Institutions such as Visitation, Lower Providence Presybterian Church or St. James Episcopal might want to celebrate their longtime presence in this community. Veterans' organizations. Ethnic organizations. Classic cars. Horse-drawn wagons. And of course, our fire department, public works and police departments could show off their latest equipment and units (K-9, motorcyle etc.). Neighboring community organizations in Worcester, West Norriton, Skippack and Collegeville would be welcome to have entries too. Last but not least, it would be yet another opportunity for our elected officials to be seen in public and available to those that elected them.

To make it even more interesting, perhaps their could be a competition for the most creative float design. And, since in my opinion there are really two 'main drags' through the township - one being Ridge Pike and the other along Egypt Road in Audubon - perhaps we could alternate parade routes between the two every year.

I think a community like Lower Providence could especially benefit from something like this. Too often, it seems to me that the residents here tend to be concerned only with what's going on only in their part of the township - Trooper or Audubon or Collegeville - and forget that people in other parts might think differently. It can become easy to forget that we all share the same government, school district, and community. 

Possibly, an annual parade might bring us all together and remind us that outside of our own neighborhoods, Lower Providence is populated with people from all over its boundaries, people with different concerns, priorities and perspectives that also need to be weighed when decisions are made that affect all of us. An event such as this can, I think, go a long way toward helping to unify us when we are presented with issues that threaten to divide us.

And yes, I realize that when one proposes something like this, one is essentially volunteering to coordinate it. I have no problem with that, but it's really up to our elected officials whether we do it or not. Let them know your thoughts.

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