It was a spectacular day for the Opening of the Beaches Parade. I mean just perfect. Bright sunshine, a decent breeze out of the south was bringing in cooler air off the ocean … what’s not to like? I strapped the mighty Nikon to the back of the bike and headed down to the heart of Jacksonville Beach, where a crowd was gathering.
The parade had all of the elements you’d expect, starting with the color guard. The led the procession proudly displaying the
American flag, as well as the flag of the state of Florida and those of all the branches of the service. They were followed by police and fire vehicles, the lifeguard corps, Coast Guard boats on trailers, literally hundreds of marchers representing everything beachy.
There were probably a hundred Shriners driving everything from tiny Humvees and NASCAR replicas to golf carts on lift kits with special hydraulics to make them bounce like lowriders. The Atlantic Lawnmower Racing League was in attendance, and dozens of antique cars rolled down First Street … their horns blowing “Aahhhoooogoooaaa” to the delight of the crowd.
There were baton twirlers, a half-dozen dance schools including a gymnast who was executing handsprings down First street. There were clowns and jugglers and a brigade of people riding Trikkes … a three-wheeled non-motorized vehicle that is great for exercise. It’s difficult to explain. You almost have to see it to understand it. I’ve tried it, and it’s not easy to ride. They’re pretty popular at the beach, probably because it’s so flat out here.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a parade without a marching band. There is only one at the beach, and so we saw the Marching Senators from Fletcher High School. In true beach fashion, the Marching Senators uniforms were purple t-shirts and jeans … some of the cut off to make classic jeans shorts. It’s the beach, after all, and Sunday. Why would you want to put on a heavy wool or polyester band uniform and walk a couple of miles? I can’t come up with a good reason. The band director was walking the parade route as Joliet Jake Blues. The entire parade had a theme of “The Blues Brothers”, apparently. Several of the floats featured Jake and Ellwood, and recalled other scenes from the movie. Marching waitresses from the diner scene … an old blues harmonica player … but no appearance of Cab Calloway or Ray Charles. The Jimmy Buffett tribute band with a phalanx of steel drums didn’t QUITE fit the theme, but it’s the beach. They kind of had to be there.
A Christmas Parade always ends with Santa Claus riding into town on a sleigh. At the opening of the beaches, Pirates sail down First Street on a three-masted pirate ship. And yes, they’re the Johnny Depp kind of pirates, not the Somali terrorists. I don’t think the Ray-Bans were quite period, but on a day like today, we’ll forgive that oversight.
And so, with the Opening of the Beaches parade, tourist season is officially underway here at the continents edge. For many of us, it means we’ll be cooking out in the back yard more often because a wait for a table can get excruciating during the summer. Traffic will get heavier as well, and with the construction going on on Third Street, it’ll sometimes be a challenge getting around, particularly on weekends. The surf temperature is still around 70 degrees … but these warm days will have that up to a very swimmable temperature by this time next month.
The beach is a unique kind of place. Those of use who live here mostly enjoy that so many others want to come out to play. Of course, we hope you’ll treat our home like you’d want yours to be treated. That means don’t block someones driveway, or park in their yard, and please pick up after yourselves. Most of our visitors do, but some just seem to think no one lives here. Or they just don’t care. I suppose those people are the same whether they’re visiting the beach or the mountains. It’s not theirs, so it doesn’t matter.
In any event, the pools open, and the water’s fine. Yeah, there might be a couple of sharks, but they almost never bother anybody.
It certainly won’t keep me out of the ocean.