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Japanese visitors love parade, too

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If I didn't have any knowledge about the Days of '47 Parade, I would wonder why there were so many entries depicting birds and insects - which in this case happened to be sea gulls and crickets.

In spite of feeling that my general knowledge of the parade's history was rather poor, I enjoyed it. I watched it with the 30 or 40 other members of the Matsumoto delegation who weren't in the parade from a location near Liberty Park, almost at the end of the parade's course. The people in the parade looked tired, especially the high school flag girls and baton twirlers, who didn't get to ride on floats but had to walk the whole way.Nevertheless, despite their weariness, I could tell both the spectators and people in the parade were still plenty cheerful.

One member of our delegation, a 29-year-old city government staffer, was almost a different person during the parade. During the delegation's stay in Salt Lake City he had to run errands for the mayor and others, putting in lots of hours, and always looked tired. During the parade, however, he looked energized. He took lots of pictures, particularly of the floats carrying the beauty queens.

The Days of '47 Parade reminded me of three other celebrations I have seen: Disneyland's Electric Light Parade, the Matsumoto-BonBon, and the Shimin Sai.

I have to explain about the last two. They are big events in Matsumoto. The midsummer Matsumoto-BonBon is similar to the Days of '47 parade in size - 200 entries - but the type of entries are very different. In the Matsumoto-BonBon, every entry consists of a group of people going down the street doing uniform movements like a drill team.

The Shimin Sai parade is part of a larger festival including concerts and similar events. In contrast to the Matsumoto-BonBon, the parade is similar to the Days of '47 parade in that there are brass bands, beauty queens and dignitaries waving to the populace. No floats, however.

Compared with those events, there were some aspects of the Days of '47 parade that surprised me. For one thing, the Salt Lake police motorcycle squad did tricks and maneuvers like they were out there riding hot rods. In Japan, the police almost never do that, even in a parade. They're the ones trying to control the hot rodders. There were a number of high school exchange students who came over with the Matsumoto del-egation, and they loved the police motorcycles. They were all scream-ing, "Cool!"

(The exchange students were the first entry in the parade, after which they came and joined us as spectators. We gave them a big cheer when they went by.)

I was also surprised by the large number of disabled persons in the parade (as well as one disabled marathon runner) - something no Utahn appeared to think at all strange. Two years ago a group of Matsumoto-BonBon dancers had two or three wheelchair-bound people in their parade group, something significant enough for me to write a story just about that.

One question I have about the Days of '47 parade is this: What do the people in Utah think of it? Do they just enjoy it as recreation, or do they think about the pioneers, their ancestors, or at least the ancestors of their state, that the parade celebrates?

Anyway, as a first-time witness, I, as well as the other members of the Matsumoto delegation, very much enjoyed the parade. Of course, the entry we cheered the most was when the mayor of Matsumoto, Tadashi Aruga, and three other Matsumoto dignitaries rode by.

Almost as popular with us, however, were the pooper-scoopers. We laughed and gave them a big hand.