Day 57: The Parade and the Race

The colors pass the main viewing area in the Ausable River Festival parade.

The frenetic pace of leisure finally caught up with me and I had a very lazy morning. Friday’s events had worn everyone out and Beth and the kids slept late, or so I thought they would. Despite the excitement of Friday afternoon, Olivia was up ready to go at eight. William and Beth woke up later. It was cloudy and sprinkling, it did not look good for the afternoon’s parade or the evening’s canoe race.

William woke up and came downstairs complaining the upstairs television did not work, or rather there was sound but, no picture. The dilemma would occupy me for several hours. It turned out there was no solution, no picture, just sound. Fortunately, I had an out. William needed to be dropped off to take part in the Ausable River Festival parade so, I took him and it gave me a break from the problem of a non-working television. I dropped him off and staked out territory for the parade.

Olivia watches as her brother and troop 979's float passes by.

The Ausable River Festival Parade is the big parade for Grayling, bigger than the Fourth of July Parade. Every group and every organization takes part and the theme is 75 Years of Hartwick Pines and 100 Years of Boy Scouts. Hartwick Pines is the local state park, which was ceded to the state park system by Rasmus Hanson, the same Hanson who established the Fish Hatchery (from Day 44). The park is famous for its stand of virgin pine – about 100 acres of virgin pine forest. Most of Michigan is second growth forest, having been cut in the late nineteenth century as the United States grew from a small rural country to large industrial nation. William and I toured the forest many years ago and the trees are huge. Of course, William had helped the troop build the tower for the parade float and they needed to finish decorating: pitching a tent and finishing the details.

I found a good spot on the main street, Michigan Avenue, and set out the lawn chairs. I was careful to get room for the Parks and Eberles. The car show was wrapping up and there were hot rods and cars from the 40s, 50s, and 60s lining the street. Beth and Olivia arrived, then the Eberles and Parks arrived and we waited for the parade to begin.  As the parade kickoff time neared, the car owners packed up their displays and moved their cars to clear the road. The parade began and a police care led the procession followed by the color guard and the National Guard Band. Then first float was Hartwick Pines then, Boy Scout Troop 979 with William. He had a good spot in the tower and waved to the crowd. He spotted us when we all began shouting his name and he saw Beth with the camera and worked not to be in the picture! The troop’s float was in the front and there many more floats and fire engines, police cars, wagons and other groups to pass by. It started to rain and then stopped, then the parade was over and we packed up and headed back to the cottage. I picked up William at the troop float and thanked the scoutmaster for letting William participate. William was tired – it had been hot and boring, too much waving.

The race did not start until nine so we had time to go back to the cottage and rest. Traditionally, we watch from Borcher’s and then race to the first checkpoint, Burton’s Landing to cheer for the paddlers. Last year we split up; William and Beth followed the paddlers and Olivia and I came back to the cottage (we stopped and had ice cream before we went home, though). We planned to do the same this year. Beth and William left for the race first and to park the car in a place where it would be easy to get out of town quickly. Olivia was tired, cranky, and hungry and wanted to eat instead of watch the race. We parked close to the river and walked the short distance to Borcher’s where we set up our viewing area on the wooden dock used to launch canoes.

The Ausable River Canoe Marathon uses a Lemans style start. The canoe teams are organized by their qualifying spot on the street above the river and the gun goes off. The paddlers grab their canoe and run for the river, jump in and begin paddling. We cannot see the start from our spot, but we can see spectators running to the banks upstream and we know that canoes will be coming around the bend soon. Then one canoe, followed by another, then packs of canoes, in threes, fours, and fives as they paddle and jockey for position on the river. I count them one, two, three, four…. I spot a canoe we are watching #62, then #66 in the top thirty. There are more canoes coming down the river, the river is churned up, and finally I end my county… ninety, ninety-one, ninety-two. Then no more, we are about to pack up with Beth and William following the canoes and two more canoes round the bend – ninety-three, ninety-four. And all the canoes are through. It will be a long night. The first checkpoint at Burton’s landing is 8 miles downriver. The record time is 41:28, William and Allison did it 1:21:00. The canoes tonight will pass through in 42 minutes to 55 minutes. The entire race will finish up in Oscoda at eleven Sunday morning. Fortunately, there is a full moon providing light, the rain has stopped, and it is cool: a good night for paddling and good night for spectators to follow the race.

A car drives down the lane as the moon illuminates the clouds and trees Saturday night

We split up with William and Beth heading to their car. Olivia and I take our time. We head to Dawson-Stevens and dinner, with ice cream of course. They are busy, but we sit down and get our food quickly. It is good and Olivia and I talk about our time at the cottage and the ice cream she wants for dessert. We are done and on our way back to the cottage. William and Beth are cheering on paddlers by the time we get home and Olivia falls asleep.

Having Ivy to walk allows me to see things I would otherwise miss. I look up and between the trees along the road, the full moon beams down on the lake and cottages along the shore. It has been a good day, better than the day before and Olivia is doing well.  I am driving home Sunday night for a conference and coming back Thursday. The kids have another week at the cottage. Making the days count, one day at a time.

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