“You want the Ranger to do what?”

“Drive us around in the Westport Santa Claus Parade.”  Liberal candidate Marjory Loveys was online.

“O.K.  I’ll have it at St. Ed’s School by 12:30 and you will have until 2:00 to decorate it.”

I’m always looking for an excuse to take my utility vehicle on another adventure, and this would give me a look at the inside of a revered institution, the Westport Santa Claus Parade.  I was also mildly curious to see how two engineers, Marjory and her husband, Tony Capel, would deal with a challenge like fastening a bunch of magnetic signs to the plastic body of a UTV.

I never thought I’d see anyone try to tape snow in place, but that’s exactly what Tony did.  They arrived with their car chock-full of boxes decorated to look like Christmas gifts.  I had told them the dimensions of the cargo area and they were prepared to fill it to overflowing.  Then they unrolled the cotton batting, and they taped it and it worked.  Keeping the very light boxes in place in Saturday afternoon’s strong breeze involved threading some strap clamps I found in my truck through the hinges of the tailgate to intersect with a spare seat belt at the front and back to the clamp.  What can I say?  It worked.

Marjory decided that the metal grate behind the seats and the front bumper both had enough metal to hold the signs, so on they went.  Large red bows and a wreath went on to the roll bar with cable ties.  Another bow discreetly clothed the trailer hitch.

We lined up behind David Blair’s stately 1970 Cadillac, a splendid ‘34 Ford hot rod, and a very nice vintage Mustang.  To my right the tractor guys were getting ready.  Dale Lyons had a volunteer in charge of his recently-acquired Massey Harris 30.

“Why did you buy a Massey 30, Dale?”

“The guy wanted to sell it.”

A beautifully restored Oliver Row Crop Model required a push start, then a tow, and finally a parking space because it couldn’t be persuaded to run smoothly. That’s everybody’s nightmare in a parade.

Behind us two smiling ladies carried a banner advertising Artemisia, a Westport sign shop.  Marching in front of them was a small human in a dinosaur suit.  As the parade wore on, it was obvious that lugging that huge tail was a strain upon the small person, but he/she was not about to give up.

Finally, on the home stretch, I asked Tony to take the wheel and I dropped back to play columnist.  Sharbot Lake resident Elizabeth Larocque, aged seven, was the figure in the T-Rex suit.  Her mother had made it for her because the T-Rex is her favourite animal, but in keeping with the Christmas theme Elizabeth had requested and gained a set of reindeer horns to clip on over the top of the headpiece.  So we were followed throughout the parade by a baby T-Rex disguised as a reindeer.  I wish I’d had time to meet Elizabeth:  she showed by her actions on that long stretch of street that she’s a trooper.

Driving Marjory Loveys around wasn’t at all what I expected.  Forget about sight lines and Queen Elizabeth waves.  Marjory wanted to meet everybody, so she was off on foot for the entire parade.  Box after box of candy canes went out.  It looked as though our would-be M.P. would soon be in a deficit because of the candy outlay, so she dispatched her finance minister, Sylvia Herlehy, to Kudrinko’s during a lull in the traffic.  In an amazingly short time Sylvia returned with supplies to replenish the cargo box, and Marjory’s campaign continued.  Photographer Moe Lavigne kept snapping away, but the high point of mischief in the parade no doubt occurred when Margaret Brand showed up and we decided to stage a shot with Marjory driving the unfamiliar Ranger.  She hadn’t prepared for this, and her reactions had us in stitches.

As the floats returned to St. Ed’s we got a chance to look at some of the other participants.  I burst out in laughter as a genuine dog-and-pony show worked its way down the street.  What else would you call a lovely young yellow lab soldiering along next to a cranky, bucking Shetland pony on a cart?  My dad would have loved the team of Belgians on a carriage which followed.

How was a Santa Claus parade different than a three-tractor procession down Hwy 15?  The Ranger is much better behaved than an antique tractor.  The V8’s ahead of us had to speed up or die, so we were soon left in their ozone.  Marjory’s need to meet everybody sometimes left her a half-block behind and out of candy, but Tony, whose job it was to control traffic flow, just told me to go ahead, she would catch up.  It turns out she can move remarkably quickly when she sets her mind to it.

It was a lot of fun participating in this parade.  Westport certainly presents itself as a friendly and welcoming community.  Maybe I’ll bring a tractor next year.

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