The Very First Parade

Wayne Chamberlain, Pequot Lakes, MN

As all who read this know, parades are a very popular event throughout America. We have parades for the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween and St. Patrick's Day; for college bowl games and homecomings and hundreds of other events. There is a parade for nearly every occasion, event or celebration held in both small and large towns and cities all across this great nation. The parade has become an American Tradition. And here's how the parade got its start.

Necessity is the Mother of all Invention. And Paul Bunyan found it to be true in this case.

Now Paul had only been logging for a few seasons when he realized that in order for his logging camp to be efficient, it must be located near the trees being logged. So, each year the old camp was abandoned and another camp built at the new logging site.

But this posed a problem. A lot of time, labor and materials were wasted each season when the old camp was abandoned and a new one built. Paul set himself to finding a simple, but efficient solution to the problem. The Great Logger spent many sleepless nights during the summer and the next season pondering a satisfactory solution.

He had many ideas, but every solution seemed to create new problems. The old camp could be dismantled at the end of each season, he thought. The building's logs could then be sent down the river to the mill with the rest of the timber. But that required another week of extra labor and delayed the river drive. And a new camp woul still need to be built each fall.

The last of the snow was melting as the lumberjacks prepared for the log drive to the mills. A workable solution still evaded Paul's grasp. It was the evening of the third day of the river drive. Paul had picked out the night's campsite and was pulling one of the Wanagans into shore. Now, a Wanagan is a bunkhouse or a cook shack on a raft. It floats down the river behind the log drive providing the lumberjacks a place to sleep and eat during the drive.

Suddenly it hit him! "Why couldn't the camp be moved each fall?" Paul thought. He finally had an idea that just might solve all his problems!

With the river drive finished, the Great Logger hurried back to camp. He spent the summer working out the details, making plans and testing models. By fall, Paul had everything worked out and was ready to put his plan into action.

Gathering his blacksmith, Ole the Big Swede, and camp carpenter, Danny O'Reily, Paul put them to work on his idea. It took almost a week to complete the first set of skids. When they were finished, the whole camp turned out to help. With jacks and levers, the camp office was raised and the skids slid under it. It was then carefully lowered onto the skids and solidly bolted down.

The stoutest log chain in camp was hooked to the skids and then to Babe's Great Harness. Paul rubbed the Breat Blue Ox's snout a minute and then said, "HO, BABE!" Everyone in camp held their breath a the Great Ox gave a tug and the office jumped ahead on its skids. A mighty shout went up from all the lumberjacks. Paul's idea had worked and the entire camp was confident in the soundness of his solution; except for Ol'Grumpy Pants, the camp crank. He complained about everything, good or bad!

By the first hint of snow, the whole camp had been mounted on skids. From the hunge bunkhouses and dining hall to the building that contained Hels Helson's precious supply of snoose. They were all neatly arranged in a line and chained together with huge log chains. Everyone waited nervously for the first snowfall.

As the first flakes started to fall, the 'jacks turned in for the night. By morning there was a good 6 inches of freshly fallen snow. "Roll out or roll 'um up," echoed Paul's Thunderous Voice throughout the camp.

The 'jacks eagerly turned out in anticipation of the big event as the gigantic log chain was hooked to Babe's harness. Paul hollered, "HO, BABE!" as the Great Blue Ox pulled. Nothing happened! Babe gave another pull, and the first building started to move. A huge shout went up as the chain tightened and the second building moved a little, and then everything stopped.

Babe gave a mighty third pull, and the whole string of buildings began moving as the 'jacks scrambled to get aboard. The buildings continued to pick up speed as the skids now easily slid on the snow. Babe now trotted, as the 'jacks were bounced and jostled around in their bunks. Hot Biscuit Slim, Cream Puff Fatty and all the chore boys had all they could do in the cookhouse as their precious pots and pans fell off shelves and rattled around on the floor.

By noon they had reached the new logging site. The camp slid to a stop and the 'jacks gingerly staggered out of their bunkhouses as if they had had too much to drink. By the end of the day, they had settled down and all the buildings had been put in place and unhooked. A huge feast was prepared by Slim and Fatty to celebrate the successful event. After the feast, Paul couldn't resist the opportunity to give another one of his Grand Orations to commemorate the event!

Over the years, people replaced the logging buildings with floats. Someone added a color guard and a band. Others added balloons and royalty and dignitaries in convertibles. Many things have been added over the years to make the parade what it is today.

But, we can all thank necessity and good Ol' Paul Bunyan's ingenuity for the invention of the very first parade. And now you have the real story on how the very first parade came into being.