Last Friday, I had the distinct honor of being tapped to be the Grand Marshal for Perham, Minnesota’s annual Turtle Fest Parade. I’ve never been a Grand Marshal before, and I had no idea what to expect.
Earlier that afternoon, in conjunction with The Willow Bookstore in Perham, I did my first in-person bookstore signing since the pandemic hit. I spoke in Turtle Race Park—yep, they really have turtle races—to a group of about sixty people. Like so many areas of the west, we’re in a drought here in Minnesota, but in the middle of my outdoor signing, the clouds overhead opened up and it rained buckets. The crowd and I raced to the shelter of a large tent, where I completed my signing.
About an hour later, after the rain had ceased, I took my place in the back of a snazzy yellow convertible at the head of dozens of floats, marching bands, pompom girls, bagpipers, and local officials. Megan Wells, my really wonderful bookstore host, was my driver, and riding shotgun was the effervescent Greta, one of her sidekicks at the store.
We got the word to start the parade early; more rain was due any minute. So we headed off in our convertible, expecting the rest of the parade to follow. But the best laid plans, you know. Somehow, even though we were fairly creeping along (like turtles, right?) we got way, way, way, way ahead of everyone and everything else. If you watch the video, it looks as if I and the little yellow convertible are the entire parade. I still have no idea what had happened to all the floats and marching bands and pompom girls and bagpipers and local officials who were supposed to be following right on our tails. But the crowd expected hoopla, so Megan and Greta and I did our best to whip the bystanders into a glorious frenzy of celebration for this parade in honor of the turtle.
Honestly, it was hoot. The video was shot near the end of the parade route, where the crowd was a bit thinner. But most of the way, the streets were packed with onlookers, as if all of Perham had turned out to celebrate.
I grew up in small towns, and I love the enthusiasm when the whole populace celebrates something of local importance, which they’ve embraced. I’ve been in towns with an annual Artichoke Festival, an annual Apple Festival, an annual Blueberry Festival. I think it’s about time the turtle got its due. And Perham does it well.