Chow Bella took a bite out of the holidays earlier this month with our annual "Eating Christmas" event at Crescent Ballroom. No worries if you missed it -- catch the essays here through the holiday season.
I'd been talking up my hometown's Christmas Parade for years. After all, it was a holiday tradition. It took place every year the Saturday before Thanksgiving. "You've got to see it," I'd say to Liam, my boyfriend. We lived in Brooklyn over 2,000 miles away from Winslow, AZ where I'd grown up. He was skeptical. "How can they call it a Christmas Parade if it happens before Thanksgiving?" he asked.
But, when we moved to Phoenix, there was no getting out of it. We were going to the parade.
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Pulling into town I saw festive green and red banners hanging from the streetlights. How cute! I thought, until I took a closer look. They read, "Christmas Parade . . . The Saturday Before Thanksqiving." Yes, if you looked closely at the type you could see the error. The first "g" in giving wasn't a "g" at all -- it was a "q." I started to get a little worried. Could the parade live up to my hype?
Sometimes my hometown felt like an acquired taste -- sparse landscape, too much wind blowing, not to mention, its one claim to fame, was a line in a song recorded way back in 1972 by The Eagles. On the other hand, there was a certain something to the place, wasn't there?
By 10:00 am vendors had lined both sides of second and third streets with their wares -- Christmas stockings that looked like moccasins, stunning turquoise jewelry, homemade salsas, tree ornaments, popcorn balls, and baked goods. The streets swelled with shoppers.
As we walked up and down the street, I tried to entice Liam by pointing out Navajo tacos on golden fry-bread with beans and ground beef, mutton sandwiches, green chili burritos, and red tamales. No dice. Then, he spotted it. A stand selling a sandwich made of grilled steak and a big, roasted, green chili pepper on a piece of puffy fry bread. His eyes sparkled as he took his first bite.
Families were arriving with lawn chairs and blankets, lining them along the curb to reserve a good spot. It was time for the show.
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We saw an enormous, motorized shopping cart (so big it held the mayor, and various city council members, inside it's basket). "Check that out?" I said. But Liam seemed distracted. We saw an assortment of Navajo and Hopi beauty queens such as Miss Teenage Leupp, Mr. Hopi High, and Miss Tuba City wearing woven sashes and sterling silver crowns, seated atop colorful blankets. Liam's attention kept being pulled away, his eyes darting back down the street. We saw young Apache Crown Dancers and aged Shriners dressed as clowns. We saw antique tractors and Folklorico dancers. Not to mention the floats - there was one that looked like a hogan decorated with Christmas trees. And, another adorned with a concho belt border. (The conchos ingeniously made from paper plates spray-painted silver.) There were floats by Cholla Power Plant, and waste management, and the Arizona Department of Corrections! C'mon, this parade was all that I remembered and more!
When I noticed that "city counsel" was spelled wrong on one of the floats I reached over to tug on Liam's arm, but he wasn't there. Where'd he go? Doesn't he want to see Santa riding on top of a fire truck? He had found his own way to usher in the holidays -- standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona waiting for a second steak sandwich.