travelog 33

Christmas Parade

Also known as "Christmas City" of Arizona, Prescott lies in the northwestern part of the state, about 130 miles south of the Grand Canyon. It's a beautiful area, shaped by yellow-red-brown boulders which are piled up at random like marbles. Another name for Prescott is "One-Mile-City" because of the altitude above sealevel.

We visit Margaret and Thilo, long-standing friends who we did not see for more than two years. As usual with me, I lend a hand with their computer systems, I install operating systems and programs, I download the latest updates from the Internet, and I show the two how to be organized and how to benefit greatly from the machines. That's how I kill my time while Julia works with Thilo in his Unimog and Pinzgauer Garage at some minor problems: she gets the always ailing generator into ship-shape and resolves other little problems (so who out there says that women don't make good mechanics, aha??).

Thilo's always very busy. That's why our short visit goes on and on. One fine day Thilo has the idea that we could participate at the Christmas Parade as members if his VW club. We are officially invited to participate with PocoLoco after consulting the club members. So we have to postpone the repairs on our solar panel which was broken after a close encounter with a strong branch somewhere on the Baja California. After all PocoLoco has to be ready for the parade.

Two days before the parade Julia buys enough material to decorate PocoLoco festively. Lametta festoons in red and blue, plastic ivy with red flowers - just enough to make a good impression. Even the usual red Santa hat with a white tassel is a must.

Time has come Saturday the 2nd of December. We decorate the vehicles and around noon we meet the VW club in downtown. At the very last second somebody glues red, silvery and green bows onto the wheel covers. After we're really ready for the show even the Mercedes star in front has a new look: it's a smiling face. The plan is that Julia drives together with Margaret and that I'm in charge as photographer.

With the different cameras I'm on my way to grab a good spot in the crowd. Many people are on the road, the television has sent their outside broadcast vehicles, even the weather is kind.

For someone who has seen for example the "Basler Fasnacht" (carnival in Basle, Switzerland), the parade in Prescott is rather disappointing. Only a few of the participating groups have a motto and tried to realize it visually on their trailer. Most of the specially decorated wagons belong to different religious organizations. Small groups of people which belong to some clubs (dog breeders, people in Victorian costumes) parade in between. Then there is a series of cars (from the thirties to the sixties), the police and the fire fighters show their older vehicles, proud parents show off their daughters as "Beauty Queens" (nominated at some unknown schools), then a group of flag waving military persons in full camouflage marches by - even the obligatory Hummer is a must.

It's very striking that especially older people rise from their folding chairs when the American flag passes by. At the same time they raise their right hand to the heart. Sign of a slowly disappearing national pride?

The most amusing group are the "Senior Steppers" (my favorites!). It's a group of women in their fifties, dressed like in their youth, who show their tap dance skills. After those ladies the members of a Christian sect (The Potters' House) show a huge chopped off hand (pleasantly smeared with blood, of course!) on a trailer. On the hand is a wooden cross and a stylized Jesus in a phone boot - it remains a complete mystery to us what they want to tell us with this.

From time to time a group of musicians who play American march music marches past. The stick waving majorettes in the appropriate dress are a must.

At this moment I can already hear the unmistakable sound of PocoLocos air horns. Margaret and Julia use the horns extensively, they make a lot of noise and especially the kids love it. And here they roll up: the VWs of the VW club, in between a modified BMW Isetta, Thilos Pinzgauer and our PocoLoco. What in the world does this monster want at a VW club?

At my side I hear a woman asking her sweetheart if he knows what this is. His terse answer: "No idea, but it must be out of a movie". Another woman tells her companion in Swiss German: "Lueg emol, das sin Schwiizer!" ("Well, well; how about that? Those are Swiss people!"). It's a small world...

Every old-age home has sent its private bus. Since we're in sunny Arizona, such a bus is of course equipped with tinted windows - which now takes its toll. I can make out only the silhouette of the passengers who wave of course to everybody. They dressed vainly in their best robe for this occasion. Another macabre detail: Some of the busses are decorated with heavy green fir festoons. This gives the vehicle the impression of riding coffins...

Within an hour it's all over. Everybody drives home and looks forward to the next event. A few days later we watch the parade on television. The commentators talk till they are blue in their faces. They talk about the clubs, the meaning and purpose of the parade, and of course they know something to say about all the participants. Anything and everything is wonderful, beautiful, great, fantastic and of course never been seen before. When the VW club rolls up into the picture they talk about a family oriented club and after seeing the BMW Isetta one commentator says cheeky: "It really looks like a bug!" - not knowing that this in fact is not at all a VW bug. And then PocoLoco rolls up and they are totally speechless - 10 seconds of awkward silence. Somebody must have forgotten to inform the people. We'll get over it...

However we don't want to forget our plants. Because there grows a beautiful century plant (Agave parryi var. couesii) right behind the house of Margaret and Thilo. During the time of our visit to Prescott we even had the opportunity to document this plant in the snow.

December 2000

Julia Etter & Martin Kristen