Mist can’t chill patriotism

Loyalty Day emcee Jim Sayce interviewed spectators before the 2018 parade.

Seventeen years ago, Long Beach city administrator at the time Nabiel Shawa said to me one fine day in Long Beach, “Hey, I’m going to work in Washougal, I think you should be emcee for the parade!”

And so began 16 visits to the review stand from 2004 through 2019 and wonderful years of fun as the Loyalty Day emcee. Took me a few years to get in the pattern but eventually things would start with a text or phone call from Bob or Judi Andrew sometime in winter, usually February or March, that began “Still interested in emceeing the parade?” — they are always polite and generous. That would result in an email from Wanda with all the parade entries (as Bob would say, “the spiel”). And I’d get that usually 24 hours before the parade.

Parade day was my one chance to make sure my hair was trimmed; shoes polished, a nice suit was donned with a flag tie to top it off. Then I’d hustle to City Hall for a meet and greet with parade officials, grand marshal, Loyalty Day court, and usually a few key city employees. I’d grab a quick bite before we’d all hustle on to the LB Trolley with Paul Leuthe usually driving for a trip to the parade review stand. Of course, as I was carrying the parade list I was invariably asked “Where am I” and then we’d reverse engineer where their position was on Washington or up by 10{sup}th{/sup}. I’d check the microphone with Rick Gray, talk with Ruth Ann Hocking and the Loyalty Day court, figure out who was who and launch into a program. Then the parade started. I had maybe 15 seconds to sequentially introduce well over 100 entrees as they individually stopped and honored those in the review stand. Thunderous marching bands, howling police sirens, and drill teams and horses, and fire trucks, local businesses, proud and aged vets, and everybody tossing candy no matter the weather as it was always beautiful.

I learned many things over the years, including that it’s important to know everybody. So I developed a list of all likely officials that could potentially show up and their partners. And their partners’ names! This was particularly important in election years. We’d time Virginia Leach’s singing with a flyover (usually a USCG helicopter but one time I think we had an A10). And attempt to time that with the parade crossing Bolstad. Parades have a rhythm all their own and sometimes we’d see the parade long before it’d ever cross 2nd Street. That evolved into a fun wander around main street with the grand marshal in tow and introduce them to the crowd, entice questions, then the trolley would pull up and we’d hustle them to the parade start. Then it became an east-west cheer competition, discussion about clamming, reminders to keep kids and dogs out of the streets, and suddenly there was Chief Flint Wright’s siren with the backing sound of a band in the distance. We all waited as the parade came to us and immersed us in sound and emotion and grins and cheers.

Ultimately, it was more about us as a small community on the edge of the continent tying ourselves back across the nation in our own way, to our own roots. I saw the passing of life in front of us, I saw Dad and his friends of the greatest generation and then I did not see them. It is this great passing of time and community that I will never forget.

Many years ago, Bette Snyder said to me after the parade, “You make us all feel we are part of the community.” That is what the parade did for me and I’m eternally grateful for this expression of love of community that I was given and continued to express with all of you because of the graciousness of Bob and Judi. They sustained our community meeting place. Honor them.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Sayce has agreed to continue as parade emcee for this year’s 70th Loyalty Day Parade, which is being taken on by the Long Beach Elks.

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