BILL VIRGIN: How to shorten the River Days Parade: Dump the politicians

ommunity festivals and parades like IKEA Renton River Days are terrific showcases of a town’s people and their accomplishments. They provide a window into organizations, activities and interests even longtime residents might otherwise never know existed. They also provide an opportunity to reconnect with one another – and enjoy some time in the summer sun, after one long winter and the looming prospect of another.

But even a good thing like a parade can suffer from an overabundance. As last Saturday’s parade lurched its way down South Third Street, the attention of younger attendees – and even some adults – noticeably waned.

Fortunately for all concerned, there is available an easy remedy, a Modest Proposal if you will, to tighten and shorten the parade, and even provide more room for a greater variety of community groups to participate and show off what Renton is about.

It’s time to tell the politicians to take a hike.

And not a hike down South Third Street on a Saturday morning in July either. Tell them they’re welcome to saunter in Seattle, promenade in Puyallup, trudge in Tacoma, just so long as they leave the parade itself for the rest of us to enjoy.

If the elected officials of Renton insist on leading off the parade in their capacity as civic leaders, very well, it’s their city. But we could insist that their cars (adorned only with their names, stripped of any exhortation for re-election) make the trip down South Third at 35 mph, thus clearing the way for the part of the parade people actually care about.

And no running around to the start of the parade to join another marching group.

The politicians still have the opportunity to participate in River Days with their booths at Liberty Park, and those bereft at the prospect of not being gladhanded by a candidate can indulge their odd pursuit there. Or if politicians absolutely insist on participating, perhaps they could all be combined in one float, a sort of rolling debate-wrestling match-brawl that would not only help condense the parade but provide an entertaining spectacle for those watching the proceedings.

Tossing the politicians from the parade would mean spectators would miss the amusing juxtaposition, as witnessed in last Saturday’s parade, of a group of politicians and a collection of real clowns in sequence. What they would gain, though, is freedom from the annoyance of politicians literally and figuratively holding up the parade, and from those who campaign while oblivious to the parade people are trying to watch.

Guessing which option most people would choose is an easy call. People would like to see more of the school groups, bands, dance, step and martial-arts performers, old and odd vehicles, floats, clowns, pirates and similar organizations that together tell the story of Renton. Being allowed to enjoy a parade that does so in a politics, campaign and candidate-free environment, is not too much to ask.

Frankly, the politicians won’t be missing much by losing two hours of campaign time.

Heaven knows they’ll have enough opportunities to pester us the other 364 days and 22 hours.

Bill Virgin, a Fairwood resident, is a former business columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He is now editor and publisher of Washington Manufacturing Alert and Pacific Northwest Rail News. He can be reached at bill.virgin@yahoo.com.


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