Ridin’ in the Parade


The line of cars trying to get to town on Black Walnut Festival parade day is legendary.

My ability to plan ahead and get there early enough to avoid it is not.

Which is how I ended up bailing out less than a mile from town in the creeping traffic to walk to the park on the edge of town where I had been told to meet. 15 bailed along with me and walked fiercely fast ahead of me while I whined and tried to catch up. I said, “Slow down! Don’t you know this is uphill?!” He grumped something about running across football fields in full pads and kept going.

He ditched me as soon as we got to the park, leaving me alone and bewildered. Here I am! Ready, willing, and able to embrace my pomp and circumstance! Where was it? I arrived at the park with little knowledge of what I was supposed to do then. I had received a letter telling me to be at Washington Park by 11:30 and that I was riding on float #11. I was to be in the parade as one of the honorary grand marshals, of which there were several (all writers who were local or had local ties of some sort). The park was full of pre-parade action. It was like watching a parade before the parade. Which was nice since I was going to pretty much miss the parade by being in it.

I guess I thought somebody would be standing there with some sort of signal telling me to go somewhere. But there was just a bunch of people standing around who had no idea what I was talking about, with a background of bands and majorettes. I finally figured out to say, “I’m on float #11! Where is #11?” since it was clear nobody had heard about any honorary grand marshals.

Somebody pointed me to a white convertible, which was #12. In front of #12 was a convoy of Army trucks. Ooooh! I was going to ride in an Army truck! I went to the truck in front of #12 and said to the Army man, “Are you #11? Do I get to hold a gun?” He found the whole numbering thing very confusing and me even more so. He scuttled off and came back to tell me that the entire Army convoy of trucks constituted #8.

So #8 was in front of #12. Where was #9, #10, and #11? Especially #11.

By this time, it was well past 11:30 and going on noon, parade start time. Someone told me to go find the sign-in table. Uh, sign-in table? My letter didn’t say anything about a sign-in table. It said to be at Washington Park at 11:30 and that I was #11. And nobody knew where the sign-in table was anyway. I walked down the street, away from the park, found some marching band people milling about and said, “Where’s the sign-in table?” Shrugs. I finally found a policeman. “Where’s the sign-in table?” He pointed the way. By this time, I was a block away from the park where I’d been told to meet. Traffic coming into town was still wild.

At the sign-in table, I told them I was #11. They found #11 in their book and pointed me here:

The official float of the Black Walnut Queen and her court!!!

But…. I did not bring my evening gown. Hunh. I thought about asking the Queen for help, but she was busy checking her text messages and I figured she didn’t know where I was supposed to be, either.

And finally, eventually, just when I had about decided to go back to the park and throw myself into an Army truck whether they wanted me or not–because I was all done walking and I had to get to town somehow and we were still quite a way from the town center and my people who I was to meet up with after the parade–I went back to the sign-in table and this time they ignored the numbering and searched for the honorary grand marshals float.

Which was not #11. Or anywhere near the park.

Just sayin’.

And the traffic mysteriously disappeared–I think they must have blocked the road then–and it was time for the parade to start.

Look! There was room for Clover and Coco! I should have brought them.

And right about then they discovered they had no one to drive the float.

I don’t know if they pulled a driver off the street or what, but we finally got going, pulling in to head toward town behind that convoy of Army trucks. (That convoy that was #8. Because we were #9.)

I was still kinda wishing I was riding in the Army truck. Or maybe on that fire truck.

The little kids along the parade route were the most fun. They were waving and yelling. As I took this picture, this little boy (pointing) was saying, “They’re dandy!”

These kids (below) were saying, “Where’s the candy?” They’re all ready with their Wal-Mart bags to scoop up loot. I would have brought candy and figured out a way to attach business cards with my website URL on it, but the same letter that told me to meet at Washington Park at 11:30 and that I was on float #11 also told me to not Not NOT bring anything to throw.

I was trying to be well-behaved. But I wished I’d brought some candy anyway.

The float turned the corner and headed for the town square, where the real crowds lined the street. By this time, I’d perfected my parade wave and didn’t even feel ridiculous anymore. Like riding through town on a big blue float waving at people was totally normal.

What is that I see in the distance?

I think it’s–


I almost bailed out right there. “Thank you for the ride to the funnel cake stand, but I have to go now.”

I managed to maintain for a few more blocks to the other side of the town square. 52, Princess, and 15 were in the crowd. (17 had other plans with his girlfriend.) I handed off my camera and 52 took this photo before running alongside the float to hand it back to me.

I hopped off at the corner before the float headed for the middle school parking lot and met up with my people.

We headed straight for Georgia.

She was manning the cornmeal stand while my cousin, who is running for re-election, was also riding in the parade.

Georgia showed me her parade wave.

I think they should put Georgia in the parade next year. Me and Georgia. Thelma and Louise. We’ll hijack this Army truck, get all liquored up and go careening through town throwing candy tied to mini-sacks of cornmeal, Clover and Coco at our sides, Spartacus crowing from the top of the truck.

The children will say we are so dandy.

I’ll tell Georgia what we’re going to do, and she’ll say, “We are?” and then bustle off to make pumpkin butter or something while my-cousin-the-prosecuting-attorney says, “Are you finished with your nonsense yet, woman?”



  1. Kalin says:

    That looks like a fun parade!

    In our college homecoming parade, we weren’t allowed to throw candy. Apparently you can disperse it by handing it out to the children, but throwing it is grounds for getting kicked out of the parade!

  2. Brenda says:

    Looks like you had a lot of fun. I was in a parade once… I was 7yrs old and dressed like a little German girl..my cousin pulled the wagon with the lawn mower. I was the German Westphalia Mi Girl—-picked because I am 1/2 German. I had fun….waving like the Queen of England.

  3. Brenda says:

    ohhh I forgot to add…… You and Georgia definitely need to do the Thelma and Louise thing. That would be so cool. Can I ride in the back of a Army truck too??? :bananadance:

  4. Doris says:

    What a lovely parade ! Come on down to Gilmer,Tx next weekend for our East Texas Yamboree !You could ride on a float and have yam pie . And yes we have funnell cakes here too. :hungry:

  5. Heidi says:

    What a freakin hoooooot that must have been – I agree, the army truck would have been a blast, especially with Georgia! LOL The parade wave is elbow first then your wrist… I only know this because I was the first princess of our town, it was the cucumber festival…. dont laugh, its true! LOL

  6. The Jillybean says:

    Ohhh, we get to do the parade thing on Friday. And we are having the Apple festival instead of the Black Walnut Festival. Good ol’ Georgia apples (no not that Georgia, the state Georgia). So, I should have LOTS to write about.

  7. MissyinWV says:

    WOW! This oficially means you are famous and soon there will be a sign in town that says “Home of Author Suzanne McMinn”. The weather looked perfect for your day. And I see Georgia had her WVU sweatshirt on, Go mountaineers!

  8. Becky says:

    Sound like you had quite an adventure! Memories you’ll treasure when you are Georgia’s age.

  9. Chris Griffith says:

    There is a funnel cake store?! OMG! Sorry, I missed the whole post, the parade, the story, I just saw a photo of a funnel cake store! You do live in the best part of the world!

  10. Diane says:

    Must of been festival weekend. We were at one this weekend also. And I was selling corn meal, buckwheat and whole wheat flour, and barley!!! Also apple cider. lol. Saw a big parade. My dd 14 is in the marching band at school and now has made it her goal to march in this big parade by her senior year. lol. Our parade did not toss out candy either. Very sad for the kids. Kids love to collect candy off the streets. lol.

    Glad you had fun. Did you get your funnel cake??? I did not. It was too far to walk clear to the other end of town to get it. lol. I got hand made candy instead.

  11. Shari C says:

    I love your idea for next year…what a hoot that would be. Great photos and hope you got your funnel cake.

  12. shelley says:

    :yes: I hope you got your funnel cake! I think you’ll need to post a recipe on this – I now have funnel cake on the brain!! And yes- you, Georgia, Clover, Coco and Spartacus would make one heckuva float!!

  13. Blaze says:

    Saw you in the parade, you look thrilled to be on the float πŸ™‚
    And met Georgia, and got some fresh corn meal too boot.
    Unfortunately no funnel cake BUT even better, fresh made corn dogs.
    Mmmmmmmmmmm, the bestest kind there is.
    Hope your festival was fun, looks like you totally had an adventure.

  14. Tressa Nelson says:

    Thanks, for sharing your adventure. What fun!!

  15. MARY says:

    :flying: I like your vision of the parade better!! Where was your walnut costume? LOL! :treehugger:

  16. Kathy says:

    I love a parade and your descprition of this one is priceless. So glad you finally found your float.

  17. anne says:

    What a great day for you ! Loved the pics !!

  18. Teresa in nc says:

    I am new to this site. I loved your pics of the parade. I lived in WV for the first 35 years of my life. We moved to the beach at nc. Sometimes I miss being there. Have you ever tried the WV state fair. Talk about traffic. :wall:

  19. Janet says:

    A good post. It reminded me of the Ripley 4th of July Parade. You’re not supposed to throw candy there either, but they do. I walked in our parade a couple of times dressed as Betsy Ross. It was fun, I carried a basket full of candy to throw to the kids (and adults)

  20. L of WayTMI says:

    mmmmmmmm. funnel cake…

    I mean, good job on finding the right float before it took off.
    They still do some candy throwing here. Give us a couple of years though, and we’ll be caught up to everyone else’s no-throw rule.

    I can’t wait for next year’s parade and the photo’s of you and Themla, er, Georgia. They said no candy throwing, but nothing about throwing cornmeal. Right?

  21. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Shelley, I have a funnel cake recipe! Here it is:

    Make Funnel Cake at Home

  22. Kacey says:

    There is nothing like a small town parade, is there? Sounds like fun…and now I’m craving funnel cakes!

  23. Karen L says:

    When you live in a big city, you miss all the fun! Here’s to small towns, and festival parades and little kids scrambling for candy and funnel cakes!

  24. angiecmt says:

    Thanks for the laugh πŸ™‚ Looked like a beautiful day for a parade and Funnel Cake!!!!!

    Wish I lived in that area – you are so making me want to move from Texas – LOL My DH would go for it – but not my DD – my grandbabies – and the rest of my family πŸ™


  25. Robin G. says:

    Ooh… funnel cake. Now I know what I’m doing this afternoon…

  26. Crystal B. says:

    Looks like a fun parade. πŸ™‚

  27. Claudia W. says:

    I sure wish I could move there. What a beautiful place, and fun parade! Small towns are the best. I used to know that first hand, but our small towns all kind of merged together.
    It’s looks as though you had a great time and Georgia looks like she’s having fun! Next year I would like to see pictures of you both in the parade with all the critters!

  28. jan-n'-tn says:

    I have a feeling that we may have seen 52, in one of those pictures. Am I right? Com’on you can tell us!
    What a beautiful day for a float ride and a funnel cake or three.

  29. Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife says:

    You just gotta love a small town parade. Thanks for the story, I’m laughing my butt off here. Let me tell you, I really, really admire a town that chooses AUTHORS as their dignitaries. WOW, I’m impressed.

    As for me, I’m hoping to snag a spot in next year’s Elburn Days Parade. My plan is to snag a vintage Cadillac parade car to ride in. I share your problem in deciding what to throw. Candy has been outlawed around here, if you can believe it. Maybe I’ll throw corn cobs or soybeans.

    – Suzanne, the Farmer’s Wife

  30. IowaCowgirl says:

    You are a CELEBRITY! Thanks for great parade photos.
    Thelma & Louise is my favorite movie, well next to Death Takes a Holiday. Go Georgia and Suzanne!

  31. jane says:

    Love it. pictures really tell the story. what a great old downtown too. there is nothing like a small town celebrating who they are, where they have been. so glad georgia wants to be on tv OR internet!! It has been awhile since I had fresh cornmeal – nothing like it for cornbread and dressing. love funnel cakes too. thanks for sharing it all with us. love it.

  32. Maureen says:

    That looks like such fun!

  33. Carolyn A. says:

    Loved the parade and so glad to see you in it! I would love to see Georgia on an Army truck. She’d be giggling the whole time. xxoo

  34. Donna says:

    LOL That was sooo funny…I was laughing and laughing from the time 15 rushed ahead, because he is used to football pad and full gear and can walk faster.. LOL Trying to find the float…LOL I am sure it wasn’t funny for you at the time, and nervewracking!
    I LOVED seeing all the old homes and buildings…I love OLD things, like architecture!! Homes, ect. It feels HOMEY…like my mother’s hometown, I grad. high school from.
    I LOVED the picture of Princess..LOL She found the goodies! LOL She is so cute.
    So, how did it feel to be the STAR??? On the grand float??

  35. Tori Lennox says:

    Love the parade pictures! I was marveling at that “skyscraper” you have in town. *g*

  36. catslady says:

    Oh such chaotic fun lol. It’s a wonder things ever work out but amazingly they do. I would have been tempted to jump off and get that funnel cake since I would never make my own lol. My daughter was in her high school marching band and we got to go to some great parades.

  37. Katharina says:

    YES! You were truly DANDY! Like you, I would have hung out with the soldiers and begged to hold a gun and ride on their truck. That would be so cool. Next year, call the recruiters and ask to ride with the guys. Tell them you will wear BDU’s and body armor and you will wave the wave. They will love you. :love:

  38. Christine says:

    I was giggling all along then lost it when I got to the Spartacus on the hood of the truck part. πŸ˜†

  39. Annette says:

    Looked like a lot of fun! Thanks for shareing your days activities! I really wanted to come down for the festival but my husband was sick I did not want to brave the traffic and crowds on my own. Meanwhile I have been really homesick for Roane County, It was nice to see pics of my hometown. Thanks!

  40. MaryLundShu says:


    I am fairly new here and I love your site. I do have a question though. Are there pictures of “52”?
    I enjoy seeing your whole gang and wondered if I missed pictures of “52” or if he is camera shy.

    Cheers, MaryLundShu

  41. Phyllis says:

    OK, two things: 1. The reason for the “no throwing candy rule” I have heard is because a few years ago a child ran out to scoop up the candy thrown from a float or vehicle and got run over. How sad is that? Even though picking up candy is one of the fun things kids love to do, I can understand why it’s not allowed anymore. But people walking along side the floats should be allowed to hand candy to the children.
    And 2. Where can I get some of that cornmeal??, since I couldn’t make it to the festival on Saturday. I did go there on Sunday but the cornmeal stand wasn’t there :hissyfit:

  42. Lisa Carper Stott says:

    HA! Just as you thought you had perfected the parade wave, I was takng your picture! And you were taking mine! I have a brown Jeep shirt on right by my aunt, the lady with the red shirt and pink hat! I thought the parade was going to be bigger than it really was. It was a great time and I got sun burned on my face! OUCH. I saw Kelleh there too, but then she was gone in a flash. I loved the Black Walnut Ice cream! The Black Walnut pie, well I thought it tasted like Car Paint SMELLS! Yuck! This should be your next task! Suzanne’s Best Black Walnut Pie! Anyway, it was really kool when the parade started because the announcer said ” Welcome to the 54th annual Black Walnut Festival and if you are from out of town, WELCOME HOME!” So for everyone who has never been to the little town of Spencer, WV. This is how we roll! LOL.

  43. Jodie says:

    Makes me want to live in a small town. I get my funnel cake fix annually at the North Texas Irish Festival. YUM! It’s only 4 1/2 months aways.

  44. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Phyllis, I figured there was some kind of reason like that, but thought it was problems with people getting pelted with candy. That is really sad.

    Mary, 52 is camera shy!

  45. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Oh, about the cornmeal, my cousin only sells it on Saturday at the Black Walnut Festival, and he also goes to the Mountain State Arts & Crafts Fair every year and sells all day every day the fair is open. He doesn’t sell otherwise. There are a lot of places that sell fresh cornmeal, though–like the Capitol Market in Charleston or the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park. That’s just a couple of places that come to mind, but there are lots of them.

  46. Suzanne McMinn says:

    oh, and you can almost always get it at places that sell Amish products! I was at a bulk foods store right off the interstate at Clarksburg a few weeks ago and they had all kind of fresh-ground flours and other Amish goods.

  47. Brandy says:

    It sounds as though you still had a good time! If you really want to ride on an army vehicle you can come down here. My SIL and her hubs have restored MANY old army vehicles (2 jeeps, a cargo truck, a CANNON-I kid you not.) They ride in parades around here. *G*

  48. Susan says:

    Small town parades rock! The goof ups are part of their charm. :thumbsup:

  49. Estella says:

    Great pictures!
    This blog can always bring smile to my face with the witty commentary!

  50. SuzieQ says:

    I will drive to the Black Walnut Festival next year if you promise that you and Georgia will ride together with the critters!! :woof: :woof:

  51. Phyllis says:

    Thanks Suzanne for the different places to buy fresh corn meal. I definitely will be going out next week-end looking for it.

  52. Rooth says:

    OH MY GOSH! I would have gone home with all that hassle. Good for you for hanging out and persevering. Did They identify each of you on the float? Who else famous was with you? or infamous ?
    It looked like a great day.

  53. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Orton Jones was the only one I knew. He writes a column for the newspaper. I didn’t know the others–they wrote some historical books and educational articles, things like that. I think I was the only one there who writes novels.

  54. Rae says:

    Loved the pics! I don’t think I realized there were that many people lined up downtown! I encountered a similar issue with finding the float. I stopped on the corner by Chevron, knowing there was no way I was ever going to find the right float. Luckily for me though, my dh was with the float and I just kept calling his cell until he finally answered, which took forever b/c he was on another call, and he guided me in the right direction. Too bad I missed the cornmeal! Would’ve loved some of that too! I did buy some goat milk soap up near the armory though.

  55. Jodie says:

    Thanks for the great parade photos. Sounds like a fun fall festival!

  56. Sylvia says:

    Gosh, I love reading you. I am from Ripley but live in Western Ky . I miss all my family back home.

  57. BobbiSue says:

    YOU and GEORGIA would be so Charming on the float…uhhh… the Army Truck… especially if you carried your drink in a little brown jug!!! Just make sure the cornmeal sack has your business card tied securely! Take care andhave a blessed day1…
    *BobbiSue from Fairmont.

  58. AspenFlower says:

    LOL Susanne, you crack me up! πŸ™‚ I love this paragraph about going on the float next year with Georgia:

    “I think they should put Georgia in the parade next year. Me and Georgia. Thelma and Louise. We’ll hijack this Army truck, get all liquored up and go careening through town throwing candy tied to mini-sacks of cornmeal, Clover and Coco at our sides, Spartacus crowing from the top of the truck.”

    Ha ha ha, this post was a good read. Thanks!

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