Anybody Can Be in a Parade

Posted October 30th, 2012 by Candice

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 . . .







18 Responses to “Anybody Can Be in a Parade”

  1. jama says:

    Hooray hooray hooray! The parade looks amazing! What a perfectly fabulous event. Haven’t had cotton candy in ages — have you polished off the sour cream pound cake yet?

    • Candice says:

      Working on the pound cake, Jama! It’s been so long since I blogged and visited blogs, I’m still finding my voice, wondering if I have anything left to say. Maybe I have.

      I ate the cotton candy for supper that night and fell asleep on the floor in my sitting room, I was that tired. But when I finally went to bed for real, I had a smile on my face. It was the best day ever!

  2. Candice! What a lovely experience and what a lovely, lovely post. I love how comfortable you are in your own skin in this parade and with these people. You just shine! The photos of you with the girls who bought Rebel are now among my favorite author images of all time. Your friend is a brilliant photographer, and you are a brilliant writer. But we already knew that, of course.

    • Candice says:

      Yes, Shannon, I have found my level, all right. Book festivals and signings and so on are fine, but turn me loose with “my people” and I am happier than a pig in sunshine.

      Donna is a wonderful photographer because she interacts with people in a way I can’t. I wish I could have put all the images in this post, but it would have been too long! We share a similar background and both are in hog heaven at events like this.

  3. Sister Patricia says:

    We did have a wonderful time that day.I can’t wait to go back next year for(if nothing else) the pound cakes and the best pie’s I have ever eaten!!

    • Candice says:

      I’m ready to go, too! Next time we’ll actually be able to see the parade! I already wish I’d bought a couple of whole pies along with the pound cake. And a raffle ticket on that black walnut cake!

  4. Connie Van Hoven says:

    What a great event to participate in! Loved the pictures. Brunswick Stew looks like Booya that we have in Minnesota. Do you know why Frog Level is so named??

    • Candice says:

      Virginia claims Brunswick stew as its own, though North Carolina also puts in a claim as inventing it. It belongs to Virginia! It’s usually made with squirrel, but most places make it with chicken. Frog Level? There are actually two Frog Levels in Virginia. The other is in the southwestern “pointy” part. Don’t know the origin of the Frog Level close to me.

  5. Donna says:

    Shannon put it perfectly. Candice, you are so comfortable in your own skin. And because you are, it makes it easier for friends like me to be comfortable, too. Seeing my pictures through your eyes makes me feel grateful and hopeful. The Frog Level festival was a fall highlight for me. Thanks for including me in your big day.

    • Candice says:

      I wrote this post around your images, Donna. That and the fact the parade coordinator told me back in July, “Anybody can be in this parade.” Because I was in the parade I couldn’t see what else was in the parade! I would have missed that adorable little girl in her Halloween costume pulling a wagon of her stuffed animals. Yeah, I think we make a good team.

  6. Steve Riley says:

    It looks like it was a great event. You were truly in your element surrounded by your family and new friends from Virginia, land of our ancestors.

    The photographs illuminated the joy of youth within you. Truly inspirational!

  7. You’re back! You’re back! Hip-Hip! [as Gwennie would say – she never gets as far as the hooray bit]
    Seriously I was experiencing a bit of Candice withdrawal.
    Oh my! That carnival looked a lot of fun. I love the all inclusive vibe that was happening.
    Hilarious stuff! The girls screaming “Buy this book or you’ll go insane!!”
    So nice to hear from you again. 😀

    • Candice says:

      Hi Melissa! I missed you, too! Love Gwennie’s, “Hip, hip”–it gets the job done! Yes, I hope to be back on a somewhat regular basis. Sort of lost of my blogging voice, though. I guess the only way to get it back is to use it!

  8. Steve Rilrey says:

    It looks like it was a great event. You were truly in your element surrounded by your family and new friends from Virginia, land of our ancestors.

    The photographs illuminated the joy of youth within you. Truly inspirational!

    • Candice says:

      Those photos were the basis for my post. My friend knows how to get people to warm up to her camera, she doesn’t just “snap.”

      I’ve just done the genealogy on my father’s side and was delighted to find I am 9th generation on his side, too! Yeah, we’re really dug in this state, aren’t we?

  9. Aw, I loved all of this. “Buy this book or you’ll go insane!” is pretty up there though! Glad you had so many laughs and the best pr team! It’s not often those things can be in the same sentence.

    I wish I had seen that parade!

  10. oh my goodness i wish i could have come!!! the pics are fabulous and i know it had to be fun! the free neccos were a stroke of genius…you look beautiful and happy and in your place…i love it and i’m sharing it!

  11. Candice says:

    Hi Sharon! Aren’t Donna’s pictures wonderful? It was absolutely the best fun ever. I’m going back every year!

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