Bright sun and blue skies showed up for the Great American Brass Band parade Saturday and brought along just a tease of a breeze to add to the jazzy cool of horns filling the air.
An already perfect day just kept getting better and better with each sight and sound leading up to the parade that played to a packed house along the sidewalks of downtown Danville.
Constitution Square in the minutes before the parade began was transformed into a playful paradise of color and sound with decorated children’s wagons and hula-hoops and hats designed and donned for no other real purpose apart from being delightful.
One of those hats was worn by Marguerette Williams of Lexington, part of the March Madness Marching Band. The group mixes whimsy with irresistible rhythms and had the crowd hopping before even stepping out into the parade stream to perform.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
Second Street was staged for the parade and might have been a timeline of the best and brightest of the American experience.
Vincent DiMartino, who helped start the festival is being honored in this year’s events as he is retiring from his position as Matton-Professor of Music at Centre College. He shared the lead car with trumpet icon Doc Severinsen, a special guest performer this year.
Draft horses were at the ready to pull wagons — even a funeral wagon. One wee donkey called “Good as Gold” threatened to steal the show.
Old iron from the era when Detroit was artists as well as engineers, Phillip Burton’s pristine 1964 Cadillac was shined up to carry Mayor Bernie Hunstad.
Harold Lawson in his 1928 Model A Ford had the honor of having his lovely wife, Mattie, as co-pilot and agreed he was living the American Ideal — a hot car and a pretty gal on a sunny day, cruising the strip.
“It just doesn’t get any better than this,” he said.
Other old iron included authentic bicycles from the Wheelmen, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the heritage of American cycling alive. The group networks to attend parades in costume and not just from here in the commonwealth but also Ohio and Illinois, Tennessee and even Delaware, according to Steve and Carolyn Carter.
The two shared a splendid bike and reported bicycles in attendance were from 1880s to 1900.
“We found the bike first and then eventually the group,” Steve said.
In a time when the larger country, and the world, is facing insecurity tinged with a touch of concern, the GABBF parade seemed to be a moment of carefree enthusiasm that teemed with an appreciation for tradition and community.
“The sense of community here, it really is something special,” Said Ray Miles.
He and his son, Lance, were taking in the parade as an un-planned part of their planned work tour.
Debbie and Anstin Sebastian were hosting the pair through a curious series of events that caused their paths to cross.
“I was dozing in the living room, and our daughter, Candice, woke me up and told me ‘Mom is bringing home some Australians,’ and, she did,” Anstin said.
Father and son are from The Gurdies, south of Melbourne. Ray is in remission from cancer. Lance has paid vacation saved up, enough to join his dad on a three-month “bucket-list” world tour that began in Canada, followed by Chicago, then Iowa. As one of their shared interests is farming, horses and tractors, it was suggested they contact Debbie’s sister in Greenville, Illinois, to see her tractor collection.
“They asked if there was anything else they should try to see in the region, and she said they had to come here for the festival,” Debbie said.
Along with the parade, they have taken in the balloon race and the Bayou and Brass street party between visits to Shakertown and Mallard’s, where Debbie said Lance received at least two sincere proposals of marriage.
“I’d have to say that the hospitality of the people is the best thing, so far, I have noticed about our trip,” said Lance Miles.
Father and son plan to continue on at least to England and Spain, China and Japan.
“I can see staying right here, though,” Ray said.