Tuesday, July 16, 2013

REVERSE PARADE EXPEDITION???

 I had never heard of a "parade in reverse", until I visited the small town of Mt. Shasta, in northern California.  The picturesque street lamp, green leafy tree, and patriotic banners shown in this photo, are a result, in large part, to the fact that Mt. Shasta hosts "The largest small town walk in America"!  The event is sponsored by Mountain Runners ( www.mtshastarunners.com ).  No matter when you visit their website, it will tell you how many more days there are until July 4th!
 Through information on their website and the local newspaper, I learned that Mountain Runners formed under the direction of Dr. Jim Parker, in the early 1980's.  I can identify with that time period, because that is also the decade where I was bitten with the "wellness bug", that was part of a changing paradigm for health care workers----being more than just caretakers of the sick, but also promoters of good health habits and active lifestyles.  In a way similar to what the Boone County Wellness Task Force was doing in northwest Arkansas, Dr. Parker and his cohorts had the mission of creating an event that not only allowed runners to share their love of the sport, but also promoted the health of the community.  In recognition of his vision, a new city mini-park, called Parker Plaza is being developed in downtown Mt. Shasta.
 What began as boom boxes along the race route in the 1980's has morphed into a "parade in reverse" where more than 48 performers are stationed along the race route, to entertain the walkers and runners as they streak (or stroll!) by the variety of stages, strategically placed along the way.
 The cooperation of area residents can be seen by the fact that many of the electrical cords for the performers,  are drawing their electricity from the home owner's personal electrical outlets.
 This lovely white arbor along the race route looks as if the home owner put it there for the sole purpose of being a white frame stage prop for these drummers!
 Most of the performers were on portable, elevated stages, with a professional looking red/white/blue sign, telling the name of their group.  Some folks brought lawn chairs to enjoy not only listening to the musical artists, but also "people watching" as the thousands of participants walked and ran down the road.
 These students of the Martial Arts were doing demonstrations of their skills, as well as giving victory shouts and "high fives" to their friends who passed by their location beside the Mercy Medical Center  ( Note: Mt. Shasta ---California's fifth highest mountain, and second highest in the Cascades
---is in the background of this photo. )
 It is worth mentioning that the early support of the Mt. Shasta hospital ( www.mercy.org  ) was a major contributor to the Fourth of July Event's survival, from when it  started 32 years ago.  Thanks to the hospital's financial support, the event was able to continue, even though that first year there were only 250 participants.  Now the numbers have grown to over 5,000!   It is reminiscent of the way the hospital where I was working in the 1980's  was supplying financial support and health care workers to sponsor an annual 5K/Fun Run in the town where I lived. 
 You may have heard the phrase that a particular person "walks to the beat of a different drum"----well this is an illustration of that phrase.  This volunteer percussionist gave us the rhythm we needed to cross the Interstate 5 overpass, that provides great views of the pointed peaks the locals call "Black Butte".
 Besides the musical performers there were belly dancers, clad in red/white/blue costumes, and showing their moves on the "magic carpets" spread out on the street.  Once again, my mind went back to the 1980's, when I was swept up in this physical fitness activity, and took belly dancing lessons at the local community college!  I was never as good as these community-minded, volunteer ladies, however!
 Lest you think that the music was only percussion and strings, there was also a representative of a "wind instrument", albeit one of the very smallest of that category!  Speaking of wind, this is a good time for me to give a "shout out" to a run/walk in the area where I live, that you can find out about by clicking on www.WhiteRiverMarathon.com  .   Like the Mt. Shasta event, it is a cooperative effort among several community-minded sponsors, volunteers, and participants, with the goal of helping the less fortunate.  It is a good example of the verse that says "May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed." (Psalm 20:4)  That is because it was started with the goal of bringing glory to God, and the result is that it has brought joy to those who are helped by its philanthropy. 
 And we were even treated to red/white/blue costumed flamenco dancer, who was quite good!
 I was glad that there was a youth division at this event, and that the youth sports programs in the Mt. Shasta area are the recipients of some of the proceeds from the race.  I am very much in favor of events that promote activity for our nation's young people!  Hopefully, next year those young legs attached to a child on this man's back, will be "hitting the pavement" for the entire walk.  I remember I was not very popular with my son, when he was about the same age as these kids, because I coerced him into doing a Fun Run/Walk with me.   However, now he is the one coercing me into doing the same!
 I was impressed with the elaborate set-up, and great sound of this group.   They not only had electric guitars, but also a keyboard and full drum sets.  Their sound was fantastic and energizing!
 This colorful balloon artist/clown was bringing smiles to everyone he met!
 This performer needed nothing more than her own great voice, and electronic accompaniment to belt out great songs to promote a festive atmosphere in all who heard her.
 Nothing beats an accordion to give a "marching song" the impetus it needs to revive the steps of the walkers/runners!
 I was extremely impressed with these "well-vested" performers, who were doing a great job of entertaining the crowds as they passed by the Visitor Center of the U.S. Forest Service in Mt. Shasta.
 Lest you think that the entire day was a "parade in reverse", this photo is to show that Mt. Shasta also knows how to put on a great "parade in forward"!  Folks lined the streets for blocks to watch marching bands, bikers, skaters, tractors, donkeys, and horses make their way down Mt. Shasta Boulevard. 
 The trees shown in this photo are a reminder to mention that 95% of the proceeds from the Mountain Runner events have gone to community beautification efforts.  The banner the young people are carrying, and the local veterans on the parade float, are a reminder of what we celebrate on the Fourth of July---the freedom we have in the USA, and a remembrance of those who fought to give us that freedom.  So here is a big THANK YOU to our veterans, and also to all the volunteers and participants of the Mt. Shasta Fourth of July Event for a FANTASTIC experience.  I will make visits to the website, www.visitmtshasta.com frequently, to plan my next visit to your wonderful area----because I know it will give me MILES OF SMILES!  Tricia
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