I've lived up the Entiat River Road for nearly five years, and though I had heard of the annual Swallow Festival, I had never attended. I had a bit of additional impetus to attend this year, a commitment to help with the Entiat Public Library's book sale, which did well by the way, thanks to the generosity of many. Friends of the Library volunteer extraordinaire, Megan Webster and Entiat Librarian, Esther Dalgas (favoring her sore, bandaged finger) are pictured below.
When I arrived in Ardenvoir Saturday morning, that elusive golden orb upon which I rely too heavily was shining brightly and as often happens on a bright sunny day, everyone seemed to be in great humor; there were plenty of smiles to go around. Not that the sun can take full credit for the day, it was obvious that many had been anxiously awaiting this small community event. It was early yet, but the atmosphere was already festive – food and drink booths were all ready, there was a place for the kids to play, a few vendors were setting up booths to sell their wares, old friends began to arrive and were greeting each other, and the book sale was already attracting readers searching for new treasures.
Before long, the real excitement started, the 34th Annual Swallowfest Parade. Now, I've been to a number of parades in my time, and as a youth, I was even a participant in some that were quite large, for instance I've been in the Kentucky Derby Parade, I've marched down Main Street in DisneyWorld along with Mickey and his friends, I even once spent a Thanksgiving day in formation with the big balloons on the nationally televised Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia, but I can safely say that I never experienced a parade quite like this one, but then again, five will get you ten that I've never experienced a parade where people had quite so much fun either.
There were clearly no stringent guidelines to be met before lining up for this parade. Your float could be any size (or any "thing" for that matter), your car didn't need to be clean and shiny (heck, it didn't even have to be a car), and if someone wanted to jump in during the middle of the parade, hey, jump right on in! Yes, just like other parades there were beautiful antique cars (and tractors!), everyone loves the fire trucks, and having horses and riders always make a parade special, but in a community parade it's important to note that the boy scout troop riding by is local, and when those vehicles pass by with American flags, balloons and streamers attached, they are your friends and neighbors representing their small businesses and farms, probably with family in tow, waving and throwing candy. It's personal and no matter what the scale of a small town parade, it's a time when people can, and should, take pride in their town and in each other.
Was Swallowfest quirky? Absolutely! But it's obvious, that has really become the point of it all. On this day, no one takes anything too seriously. Everyone was welcome and that inclusive atmosphere was refreshing in this day and age when it seems that taking sides is a national pastime. This was a day of no politics and no bickering, just a day of enjoyment, food, and music.
No, I never saw a single swallow at the festival, unless you count the "swallows" that I saw plastered onto a vehicle or two. Sadly, we don't get swallows up at our place, and I don't blame the swallows in Ardenvoir for waiting until the crowds left before making themselves known again, but it might have been nice to see at least one on Saturday, just to make the day complete.
As the parade rolled down river, the sun found the clouds and didn't reappear for the rest of the day. A cold wind blew up and the rest of the afternoon was chilly and blustery. I eventually went back up river, made myself a hot cup of tea, curled up in a blanket and tried to shake off the chill. While sipping my tea I thought about the day. One of my favorite memories will be that darling little girl on the parade route who stood near me on the sideline. Waving, pointing, and laughing, she didn't need big fancy floats or big marching bands. The awe and wonder on her face told me that she was gathering memories that would hold for a lifetime. And in the long run, that's what a successful community event is all about, right?