Is it just me, or does every single day surrounding Thanksgiving have some “cute” little nickname now?
Seriously…Black Friday, Blackout Wednesday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, Giving Tuesday, Dumbass Sunday, Dipshit Wednesday…for crying out loud, I can’t even keep track of all of them! (Okay, so I made those last two up...or did I?)
This year, I even heard people referring to Thanksgiving Day as “Brown Thursday.” At first I assumed it had to do with shitting yourself from too much bran stuffing but no—apparently it somehow refers to what is undoubtedly the biggest topic of the season this year: the stretching of “Black Friday” into Thanksgiving night. It seems to be spreading up earlier into the week like a plague each year, and protests flooded Facebook that week about how the whole world should (and had every intention to) boycott this concept on principle, yet what did I find when I logged on before bed Thursday night? Facebook flooded by photos from “Brown Thursday” shoppers.
Way to stick to your guns, friends.
I’ll “Shop Local Saturday” up and down all day long, but for the most part I just can’t get behind a lot of this hoopla. I “shopped” on Black Friday once about six or seven years ago. It seemed like a good idea the night before (I was intrigued and morbidly fascinated to watch swarms of people at their absolute worst), so I signed on and was dragged out of bed at 3 am, a bit slap-happy due to the odd hour but definitely ready to roll…women (and Chip) be shoppin’.
Or so I thought. The buzz quickly wore off, and after one store I was over it and spent the subsequent three hours sleeping in the back of the van as the rest of my group drove around shop-hopping. To date, this is my only Black Friday shopping experience. And I’m fine if it’s the last. Commerce be damned.
The way I prefer to kick-off the holiday season is a bit more pure and far less “commercial,” to lift a term used by everyone’s favorite copyright-protected blockhead. And forgive my cynical start to this post—the tone is about to get much softer.
This year marked the 126th edition of Peoria’s Santa Claus Parade and I have attended every single one since 1982, either on the sidelines or marching in it for various reasons (mostly in high school).
Sure, its no Macy’s parade, but to me it is the start of the season in Peoria. I literally don’t even know Christmas without it, and with a record as long as mine, I get a little OCD about going, so much in fact that that this year, with family out of town for the first time, girlfriend working, and everyone else apparently out brown/black/whatever shopping, I was determined to still go, despite having to fly solo. Lack of company be damned!
One of the benefits of being a lone gun I discovered, is a chance to scope out the parade as it lines up, and the ability to get a few close-up pics of the floats and other details during prep time.
This is one of the cool old cars that makes its way through the parade every year as part of the Shriners Antique Car Club. This is a group that I’m sad to see get smaller with each passing year. In fact, there were no Shrine clowns in the parade this year for the first time ever. It’s a shame we live in a world now where it’s trendy to fear clowns.
At first I thought someone was inside this Chinese dragon…
Ya know, they give out major awards at this parade…
Yikes! It’s starting. I need to find my perch. For several years, we staked claim to a spot in this parking deck, located directly across from Riverside Church (the former Shrine Mosque) on Monroe St. As a kid, this was disappointing, because you missed out on one of the best parts of the parade…
The candy. You can’t get this perched in a parking deck. Cavities be damned!
The majority of our years watching were spent parking our carcasses in front of the Public Library’s Main Branch. I’ve never loved this spot much, as it’s at the relative front of the parade route, so the pace of the parade doesn’t quite have its momentum at this point. Plus its usually pretty crowded, and the bystanders in this area have a tendency to move too far into the street, bottle-necking the route . Construction on the library for those few recent years pushed us further down the road to where the parade route curves at the corner of Monroe and Main. But construction be damned, the work on the new hotel cramps this plan this year, so it’s off to find a new spot I go...
Toys and other swag are available for sale each year—I always get a kick out of the retro-looking inflatable Santas and Frostys hanging from the carts.
It’s cold out here…and just as I started looking for a place to buy some hot chocolate, I happened upon these nice folks of Riverside Church, who were dispensing it for free near Busey Bank as well as several other spots along the way...it saved me a dollar!
I ended up at the corner of Main and Jefferson, which was shockingly not crowded at all. The shade from the buildings made it feel colder than it probably was, and I made the mistake of bundling well but only wearing one pair of socks! This used to be my favorite part of the “parade layering” process as a kid...I think my record was five pairs of socks once, so I’m not sure how I managed to overlook it this year. The cold nipped so much I didn’t get as many pictures of the parade as planned, but here they are…
Another great parade float, and one of the bigger and more elaborate...from Lakeview Museum? Time to update the sign methinks…
The Scottish Rite represented (as they always do)!
I’d hate to see the size of the bell whose ringing accompanies this Salvation Army pot.
When I think Christmas, my mind immediately jumps to visions of ducks on jetskis.
And there he is! Santa and the Mrs! It was a great parade this year, one of the better installments of the past few years. There were several new entries in the float department, but the classic “Three Men in a Tub” was noticeably absent this year (and I think it has been the past few). Hmmm...I’d love to see this come back, and I’d also like to see more participation from some of the bigger local marching bands...the Peoria schools have gotten so tiny. I had to reposition myself a few times due to my frostbitten toes, but I had a blast, even if I was flying solo this year…
But it’s not just freezing my way through the parade that gets me properly “spirited.” This is a day full of method and faithful ritual. After the parade, it’s always straight home for leftovers and to amuse myself by flipping on the television to catch the end of the parade that I just saw live.
Several hours later, I’m back on Main Street for Yule Like Peoria, the annual holiday “walkabout” event, now in its 22nd year (I was surprised by this, as I thought it had been around longer.) The parade and “Yule Like” are just two of the annual events overseen by the Peoria Area Community Events organization (PACE). Music, dance and other forms of entertainment pepper the lobbies and storefronts literally throughout all of downtown. Many of the spots also have free refreshments and it can really get you into the Christmas mood if you’re off to a slow start. I always bundle up better for this than the daytime parade, but it was actually warmer at night this year...
I’ve been a participant in this event many times with various groups, but much prefer to attend and walk the free-form route. I always start my “walk-a-bout” with checking out the ice sculpture contest on the Courthouse lawn…but was disappointed to find they didn’t do it this year...it’s normally one of the best parts of the event! Too warm this year? Too cold? Lack of interest? Excuses be damned! I say bring it back in 2014!
Here in a prime spot at SouthSide Bank we were able to catch the sweet sounds of “Just Friends,” a jazz/music combo comprised of some of my musician friends that have played in the bands for some of my shows.
PNC Bank: Visiting with friends performing in Eastlight Theatre’s upcoming Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (of which I’m an alumni, so I’ve always got to stop by). The show is in its 23rd year now, and still packs them in!
Peoria Players company members caroling at Haddad’s Restaurant...Peoria Players also swept the awards earlier that day for their parade float.
The Richwoods Madrigal Singers in the Janssen building are a fixture at this event—I’m a sucker for a good Madrigal dinner. It’s always like if Medieval Times were set in a high school cafeteria.
Ballet, Irish dancing, visits with Santa and much more family friendly entertainment can also be caught on this walk-a-bout tour...our last stop for the night was the newly renovated Pere Marquette, where we caught the Peoria Barbershop Chorus, featuring Santa no less!
Jenny and I stopped to pose for a pic in the Pere (this was my first time in here since the refurb and it is super nice by the way) before calling it a night...after too much turkey and stuffing in the past 24 hours, we’re stopping for pizza on the way home! Hunger pains, you guessed it—be damned!
So this is how I spend Black Friday each year, folks…it’s fun, and all free! And I guarantee less exhausting and not at all stressful compared to shopping...try this next year, and you’ll start the holiday season with a song in your heart, instead of cussing, fighting with strangers, and burning a hole in your wallet in the middle of the night. If I know anything about celebrating the holiday right, it’s that Brown Thursday is indeed full of shit.
And on that note, have a nice holiday season, everyone! And Happy (almost) One-Year anniversary, MBIP! I’m thrilled and thankful to be a part of this crew!