|Corvettes on parade|
On Saturday July 3rd, we went to the St Louis "America's Birthday Parade." Parades are common across cultures, and often they are a way for a community to emphasize and build up its identity. Americans have been celebrating Independence Day with parades since shortly after the Revolutionary War. But nowadays, parades do not attract the same crowds as in the past. This year's parade certainly was affected by Covid-19, though no one there was wearing a mask, even though there were plenty of children too young to be vaccinated. I suppose the people who are cautious enough to wear a mask did not attend. The St Patrick's Day parade in March had been cancelled because of Covid, so the Irish community brought their giant inflatable leprechaun out for Independence Day.
|Sparse crowd on Market Street|
|St Patrick's Day Parade Committee banner|
|Banner in front of band, Ferrara 2010|
|Paddlewheel boat float|
Interestingly, the Independence Day Parade in St Louis has a somewhat similar political origin. The current parade began as part of a "Veiled Prophet" parade. The Veiled Prophet Organization was a club for the elite men of St Louis. It was founded in 1878, a year after white and Black workers held a major strike that shook the city. Once the strike was broken, the elite sought to heal the wounds, but on their terms. The Veiled Prophet Organization held a debutante ball and a parade, which essentially expressed who was in charge of the city. People have protested against the Veiled Prophet for years, claiming it was elitist, racist, and sexist (see 1969 article on protests in the St Louis Post Dispatch and a 2014 article in The Atlantic). Just last month, Ellie Kemper (an actress from Missouri) was criticized for having participated in the debutante ball when she was 19 (she was crowned "Queen of Love and Beauty") and she apologized. (Vanity Fair had a good analysis here.) The Veiled Prophet Organization has adapted and changed over the years, and the Veiled Prophet Parade that used to be held at the time of the Ball in October has become a "Fair St Louis" parade over July 4th.
In general, I find that most people who did not grow up in St Louis are shocked at the Veiled Prophet as a cultural institution, but those who grew up here or have lived here a long time take it as normal, simply part of the culture. There is so much that could be said about the Veiled Prophet. Maybe some other day. Right now I want to focus on the "America's Birthday Parade" and on the custom of parades in general (realizing that by doing so, I'm whitewashing the role of the Veiled Prophet in St Louis).