You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Staunton and the civic rituals of autumn
We're giddy with anticipation as this year's Veterans Day approaches, only a week away now, so we'll work off some of that excess and unnecessary energy with a brisk walk out to Gypsy Hill Park. Past the Peruvian Chicken truck.
And past Religion Row on North Augusta Street
This is the 19th century pavilion near the eastern entrance to the Gypsy Hill Park.
Ducks coming at us like a line of World War One British battle cruisers
For a town with a couple of churches on every city block, we've even got a Dog Church, with its own Eight Commandments.
The Gypsy Hill Duck Pond in good light
Late fall colors
The Veterans Day Parade
It's not exactly Veterans Day, of course, which is always on 11 November we've recently learned, but it's the preceding Saturday, the 9th, and we've been told to keep an eye out the window for the marshaling of the troops. Or ex-troops.
It's an unseasonably very cold day, unfortunately, a test of the commitment (and perhaps the patriotism) of all the eager paraders who are gathering here to be formed up an hour and a half before the parade begins. Not that big duck, he's just lost.
This will be (in the fullness of time) the leading group when the parade begins -- the bright but chilly young women of the Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership (of Staunton's Mary Baldwin University), all fully armed with either a flag or a rifle. Or in a few cases a sword.
N. Augusta street in lockdown. All flags aloft.
More young people with rifles, and lovely Confederate-grey uniforms
A traditional patriotic government-sponsored festive parade brings everyone out.
And it's an opportunity to renew old acquaintances and rev up the engines.
On the steps of the beautiful Roman Catholic St Francis church (next to the anti-abortion clinic called HOPE), even the Boy Scouts have turned out. Selling instant coffee for $1 a styro cup.
A worthy Veteran willing to join any marching band that will take him.
Here are the armed young men again, in the parking lot of the first bank (called the FirstBank) in the line of four nearly identical banks along N. Central St -- in a hopeful urban renewal project some years ago, the 19th century buildings were torn down but the renewal grant fell through, so the entire block had to be sold off to whomever. Now we have four lookalike banks in a row, each surrounded by an obscenely large carpark for customers only, with never more than 3 or 4 cars in it, and a Domino's Pizza. And a Hardees.
In fact, here are lots more armed young men in fanciful uniforms. Some with tubas.
The old-timers are mounting up, the sense of anticipation is becoming overwhelming.
And we're off. From N. Augusta St turning onto E. Frederick St in front of our place
We're kicking it off with the marching Leadership Women with their guns. And a few swords.
Followed by the half-frozen City Council, apparently.
And then a tractor
'Happy Birthday, America. See you next July!' Can't wait. That appears to be Uncle Sam Himself or a half-hearted simulacrum.
The armed young men in lockstep, with any luck, someday to be Veterans themselves.
The American Legion Post 13, comfortably seated on lawn chairs for the occasion and waving to the crowd from time to time
An odd group of paraders, this, but with a huge flag and two chestfuls of 'merit badges' that certainly suggest more Boy Scouts. (As a youth, I had two merit badges, but I bought them off the scoutmaster's son.)
The parade continues, not interminably but nearly so -- we're being selective with the photos.
Too many flags can blunt the message -- we can't read any of them (except the well-known hegemonic flag in the front). But these are presumably real vets, perhaps from the Great War. (We all greatly value our brave men and women who have repelled foreign armies from our shores and kept us safe.)
The marching band of the Staunton High School, and encouragingly everyone seems to be taking this in a good humor. Until last 31 July, this was the Robert E. Lee High School, and wasn't that a protracted and earnest battle in the newspapers.
A charming collection of chilly kids, possibly with future veterans amongst them
This is a very huge band, many parts of participant groups wearing different uniforms. Apparently we looking at the elite musical marchers from lots of schools around Augusta County.
And here they come -- they don't seem all to be playing the same catchy tunes.
Flag-waving people -- it doesn't seem easy to do, and perhaps impossible to do it all at the same time.
Here's what we've been waiting so long for -- Rolling Thunder!!
There's a delay somewhere up ahead, so we wait chillily. They're turning down one of the streets ahead, down towards the Beverley main street below, and probably somebody didn't get it done smoothly.
It's all bit anti-climactic now -- revving and revving to show some spirit, at least, but not going anywhere.
-- Of course we've got lots of other stuff we should be doing, but this is a kind of civic duty, isn't it.
Probably feeling less and less patriotic as the long minutes ooze by
Finally, they're free again and on their way. Vroom-vroom!
Foresight! Well-prepared, just in case
Well-prepared for everything, in fact (This gleaming fellow and his big red mates live in a fire station just up the street, so we're almost the first to learn of every fire in Augusta County as they siren-blast their way under our windows.)
The parade is over in front of the Old YMCA, so we're scurrying down a block to Beverley St., the main drag, to see the whole gang marching by again.
On further thought, as thrilling as it was, once may be enough.
We've got time, though, for the brave Staunton High School band. (We've always admired, and wondered about, the teenagers who have the energy and interest to sign up for all of these unpaid school activities.)
And here come the delightful little kids (whose banner proclaims them to be 'American Heritage Girls') (huh?). That was fascinating, great community spirit, but enough for one day.
Next stop: Scenes of Lexington, VA, and the now-famous Red Hen