Hansen: Who can compete against Jupiter?

I liked the planets.

It was hard not to like a lot of things during the Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade. On a winter day as warm as the Fourth of July, the town was in full bloom Saturday.

Funny how parades do that.

It's as if we have the license to dress up and make fun of ourselves. We hang our shiny shingles and say, "Look at me, ma!"

You find yourself staring, immersed in some animated, 3-D TV. The colors seem saturated and Photoshopped, but they're real. You keep reminding yourself it's live, but it never completely sinks in.

The kids give it that Nickelodeon squeal factor, giving you the freedom to join them.

There are no rules or politics or judgment — aside from which marching band is going to win. There are just beads, candy and free entertainment.

But it's more than mindless niche promotion. Sure, some groups border on the shameless plug, but on this day, it's about the benefit of the doubt.

We realize, despite how we may feel about individual groups, together they make up our community.

What town, for example, has an Excalibur Car Club? I mean really?

Or a very creative Transition Laguna Beach float that tried hard to go zero footprint — nice work on hiding the rig. :) The effort earned them the President's Theme trophy.

It was not a fair contest — not that we were keeping score — with the Pageant of the Masters crew portraying the universe, complete with huge floating planetary orbs.

Who can compete against Jupiter?

There were 1940s newsboys and clowns that actually did not look too freaky.

There were Timothy Leary type men who resembled clowns, but it worked.

There were Boy Scouts with pictures of guns and cowboys with very loud guns.

And there was lots of overflowing patriotism: military brass, various veterans and grand marshal Navy Capt. Jason Ehret.

The grand marshal's trophy went to the Laguna Beach Unified Elementary School Band. And the best out-of-towner band went to Oaks Middle School in Ontario.

In case you are wondering why there were bands from outside the area when it's "our" parade, it is because there would not be enough music otherwise. We have, like, two and a half bands.

Community parades have become the "American Idol" for high school bands.

"Everyone loves parades, and they love the bands," said organizer Sandi Werthe.

Werthe said the band judges take their jobs (somewhat) seriously, rating the bands on their uniforms, formation and music.

Keeping the parade afloat, as it were, is not all fun and games, however. Werthe said the $20 entry fee is really just a nominal amount and is waved for many groups, including the schools. Advertisers and donors largely pay for the event.

This year Cox Communications, which films the event for broadcast, decided to charge the nonprofit group $2,500 — a first.

"We had to dip into reserves," Werthe said. "I don't know what we're going to do next year."

In the meantime, pictures of the parade will linger. Every family will have snapshots on Facebook — kids smiling, firemen handing out lollipops, dignitaries waving.

It's more than just Americana. Or is it?

We wave at each other acknowledging something unsaid, validating a little piece of each other, like mirrors.

We open our sandbox and invite our neighbors to play.

It's a little thing, but it makes us happy.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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