Tournament of Roses officials get it. So do towns and villages everywhere, not just in America. They understand what a parade is and what it is not.
Parades vary widely in size and thematic emphasis, and people in small towns and large cities love to watch them. They will arrive at curbside hours before the appointed hour and endure severe weather for the opportunity to witness a parade.
Their payoff is a real parade moving before them, bands, decorated floats, people on horseback, clowns tossing candy and riding in funny cars, beauty queens and their courts, dignitaries waving from open convertibles. They move along, these parade units, occasionally stalling, offering a variety of live entertainment before eventually fading in the distance.
On New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California, a large parade features elaborately decorated floats, many of them with moving parts and live actors or athletes. There are beauty queens, horse units with riders wearing costumes, and of course, there are bands, big ones. In this parade, they get to play entire selections.
In Miami, a nighttime parade linked to Orange Bowl festivities offers an after-dark display of floats bedecked with lights. This parade is a gorgeous feast for the eyes.
These are parades, whether in small towns or large cities. We love them.
A series of performances by pop music singers in front of a department store is not a parade. Every year, thousands eagerly flock to New York City to witness this commercialized spectacle. Some of its entertainment can be enjoyable to watch, depending on one’s age. Yes, there are parade units. Large bands from high schools and universities travel from around the nation and world for the opportunity to march in this event. They get to play for the television cameras in front of the department store, for a few seconds. Many of the floats stop moving briefly so the pop or country singer aboard can sing, then move on. It’s a moving floor show.
This is something other than a parade. It is some form of entertainment, to be sure, but a parade it is not. NBC decided years ago to redefine what a parade should be, and in the process, trashed a wonderful tradition. It became something else. They promote it as a parade, but many of us — we who love a true parade — know better.