Yes, it’s been a long time since I was here last. Lots of events and work and travel that ended spectacularly (for me) with the 40th annual Frog Level Volunteer Fire Department Parade and Festival. Like water, people seek to find their own level. I’ve found mine, a place where anybody can be in a parade.
I fretted all week about the weather, which had not been kind to me during my various signings and events (book launch party = derecho, bookstore event = 117 degree heat, bookstore event = Obama stumping and bad t-storm). Would my Joe Btfsplk cloud follow me to Frog Level?
We got to the fire station grounds when it was barely light, but the volunteer firemen were stirring five enormous kettles of Brunswick stew with boat paddles. The fire engines were out front, ready to lead the parade, the ladies in the auxiliary were cutting pieces of pie to sell. I set up my table (Rebel and Iva for sale plus free Necco wafers), then wandered around.
The sweet smell of cotton candy drew me to the cotton candy wagon. The man and his wife running the concession invited me in. It was like stepping in a warm spun sugar cloud! Today they were making green and orange colors.
The Centreville Volunteer Fire Department parade and carnival was the highlight of my summers growing up. Turns out, this man’s father put on the concessions and rides for firemen’s carnivals all over Virginia! He traveled with his family (we probably met 50 years ago!) and admitted the carny glitter wears thin when you have to break rides down on a Saturday night in the pouring rain.
It was cloudy and breezy, cooler than we expected, but people came. My sister, her husband, my two nieces, and my two great-nieces. My friend Donna Hopkins came to take these wonderful pictures (a few are mine and you can tell the difference). My great-nieces, Ashley and Sherri, immediately got busy selling my book! Forget Twitter and blog tours–want to sell your book? Get two enthusiastic preteen girls!
Ashley, an animal lover, ran over to the horse and pony trailer before they were unloaded. Both girls, cousins and loyal friends since babyhood, made friends all over the festival grounds and while we waited in the parade line-up.
My husband drove, my brother-in-law rode shotgun, and the rest of us piled in the back of my truck, tricked out with signs provided by my publisher. We were behind a power company rig and in front of an 1955 fire engine. The girls screamed, “Buy this book! Buy this book or you’ll go insane!” all along 301, even when there wasn’t anybody in sight. A 7-year-old boy in the vintage fire truck behind us blew the siren to watch us jump. My sister and I never laughed so hard.
I did sell books, mostly to little girls who were stunned to meet a “real live author.”
The New England Confectionary Company provided Necco wafers for the occasion and, like Rebel and Lacey Jane in the book, girls bonded over rolls of Neccos.
I loved every minute of this event. It’s difficult to say which was my favorite part (okay, the free cotton candy was up there), because it was all good: having my family particpate, having Donna take pictures, taking home Brunswick stew, slices of pumpkin pie and an entire sour cream pound cake.
Back when I was Ashley’s and Sherri’s age and dreaming of being writer, I pictured myself accepting awards in New York City. No award could top this experience in Frog Level.
Anybody can write a book . . .
Anybody can watch a parade . . .
And in Frog Level, anybody can be in a parade . . .