What the camera can’t capture

Yesterday I got to do something I hadn’t been able to do for a few years – sit and watch the July 4th parade. When my son was a Cub Scout, I always had to walk with him and his pack, helping hand out ice pops to the Scouts to hand out to the children along the parade route. Now that he is a Boy Scout in a troop that does not walk in the parade (only one troop in town was in yesterday’s parade, and that was the one sponsored by the Salvation Army, which always has a significant presence in the parade), we got to sit (in the shade!) and watch the parade go by.

I tried to take lots of pictures, but there’s a lot that the camera can’t capture. It can’t capture the sense of being part of something important as everyone gets out of their lawn chairs and camp chairs when the color guard approaches with the American flag. (Besides, taking a picture at that moment didn’t seem like a good way to show my son how to honor the flag.) It can’t capture – at least not effectively – the exuberance of the Liberian immigrants who as much danced as walked in the parade, showing how glad they are to be living in the United States.

In a narrow one-way street (though I found it amusing to see in my photos a ONE WAY sign clearly pointing in the opposite direction from the parade’s movement), I couldn’t back up far enough to get good wide-angle shots without having trees and spectators block my view. And there was just no way to get a shot that showed all of the Kraken’s enormous body, pulled on a trailer by the Search & Rescue team. (If you missed my earlier post about the Monster of Muscatine, we have a large pink visitor in town, recently seen in the library’s upper story and then on top of the drugstore.)

There were a lot of floats, most of them depicting Abraham Lincoln and cannons (and stacks of cannonballs, presumably round black balloons). I had assumed that the theme for this year’s parade must have something to do with the Sesquicentennial, but then along came a float decorated as a gigantic pool table (representing, naturally, a local pool hall). The balls appear to be soccer balls (volleyballs?) painted to look like billiard balls. I did my best to get some shots of the guys who walked alongside taking shots with their cue sticks, but I would have had to be at a second story window with a really good zoom lens to get the most effective (camera) shot.

There were people who must have been getting very hot, especially the one in the Dalmatian costume (advertising Happy Joe’s Pizza), and another dressed as a turtle. Then there were those who probably stayed a lot cooler – and very wet. They were part of a float for a local construction company, demonstrating that their roofing materials could handle a lot of water. I decided that my camera would not like to get close enough to them to get a good picture.

Sometimes, when the gap between groups extended over a block, I sat and watched the other people watching the parade. The children all seemed to be having a great time – except when candy was thrown nearby and they didn’t get any. I tried to remember back to parades during my childhood, and what I thought about as the parade went by. Did I have any idea what it meant to celebrate the freedom we enjoy in the United States? I remember having a small flag to wave – did I have any idea what it meant? Do these children? (Do their parents?)

The climax of any town’s July 4th celebration is the fireworks, and dusk (the officially designated starting time) found us, as usual, sitting at the riverfront, waiting. I had taken the trouble to look up the definition of dusk and the time it would come, but as usual the fireworks didn’t start for at least another twenty minutes. I don’t get down to the riverfront all that often, but I don’t think there’s any time I’ve been there that it’s quite as crowded as July 4th, and as full of children running carefree (some of them having a great time getting wet in the fountain). You read about how parents are so overprotective of children these days, but I didn’t see much of that – perhaps the overprotective ones stay home.

My son, as usual, pronounced these the best fireworks he’s ever seen. He wasn’t sure whether beautiful was the right word for them, or just pretty, but they certainly were fun to watch. Even more fun, I discovered, to realize that I could take pictures of them by setting my camera to video mode, then later extract the frames I liked best. These fall far short of the impressive display we saw in person, but I did find satisfaction in getting the colored reflection on the river.  

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