It’s no secret where I come from. I grew up in Los Angeles, in the community of Eagle Rock. It’s just west of Pasadena (of Tournament of Roses Parade fame). I moved from L.A. to Seattle and only left the city for the suburbs because of the real estate market. I love the diversity and the wonders of our cities. I am most definitely a city boy.
Alissa grew up in Cashmere, WA. Both sides of her family have deep roots here. With an area of less than one square mile and a population of about 3000 (my high school had a student body of 2300), it is most defnitely a small town. Nestled in a valley along the Wenatchee River in the eastern foothills of the Cascades, it reminded one of its founders of Kashmir, India, hence the name. It’s a community built on the bounty of the surrounding orchards, as one is reminded in the local supermarket which seems to have labeled its aisles with the logos of the areas growers and packers.
My first introduction to Cashmere came late on a February night in 1997. My housemates and I had gone to visit Alissa’s family. The trip took us over two mountain passes. Alissa’s parents live on an acre or so of land connected to the rest of town by a long dirt driveway. Having driven over in a Toyota Corolla, we opted to park on a side street, cut across a neighboring yard and crossing a drainage ditch to reach her parents’ house.
The next day, we went “downtown”. Businesses line both sides of the street, the sidewalks protected by a roof and connected by a covered crosswalk. At one end of the business district, there is a brick bank building that dominates one end of the street. While exploring, I had an ill-fated experience where I sank waist deep into the snow. Interestingly, I have not experienced such deep snow there since, even though it was considered normal.
Of course, I’ve come to know this town a lot better in the intervening years. It’s full of very nice people who have a clear sense of community, something they celebrate a few times a year. There’s a bluegrass festival, Apple Days, and Founder’s Day.
It was this last event that brought us over the mountains this morning. I mentioned that Alissa has deep roots in Cashmere. Well, every Founder’s Day, the community selects a founding family and honor’s that family. This year it was Alissa’s family’s turn. In this case, it was the descendants of her mother’s grandparents. There was a reception that we did not attend, but the main event for us was to ride in the Founder’s Day parade.
We’ve watched the parade before. Alissa’s uncle (father’s side) regularly rides as part of a small equestrian drill team. The Tournament of Roses, it is not. It’s better.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Rose Parade, but it’s too big. It’s not the same as a community parade. The whole community comes out. There’s a parade court, a queen and several (4?) princesses who ride a float. There are similar floats bearing the courts from other small towns across Washington. There are contingents from the American Legion, the Boy Scouts, Rotary, Kiwanis, and more. And naturally businesses and schools and politicians get in on the act, along with cutural groups, classic car enthusiasts and plenty of others. They also trot out every emergency vehicle they can spare and blister the audience’s eardrums with sirens. Oh yeah. The Cashmere parade usually has to pause to let a freight train go though.
And so it was, that we drove down to the Cashmere Museum and hoisted ourselves up onto a classic flatbed truck and sat down on the hay bales that had been placed there for that purpose. It was then a quick drive to the lineup area. We then waited. The church that Alissa’s family calls home was advertising Vacation Bible School next to a group that taught folks how to make and use bows and arrows. Across the way was a jumprope drill team and the Boy Scout Float. There was a local swim team, a folklorico troupe as well as a group doing some kind of Native American dance. There was the court float and Walk Wolf, the mascot for a local hockey team. One of Alissa’s classmates, now a Kindergarten teacher (if we lived here, she would be Harry’s) came over and chatted before joining thje group of costume clad children marching with the library. Our truck was followed by an antique tractor.
Eventually, we set off. As we were early in the line, we were not held up by the train. It was fun to see people gathered for a good old fashioned community celebration. We waved at spectators, and they waved back. I was particularly pleased to see the number of people who called out recognition to Alissa’s mother. She just retired from a long teaching career and is deserving of every cheer.
The event was simple, and it was pure. It was truly a community celebration, one worth enjoying. It was the type of thing that we need more of in our communities and I was pleased to have had the priviledge of participating.