It was an otherwise uneventful day, doing my morning show at a Grant County radio station, when the General Manager approached me during a commercial break.
“You and Paul,” he said matter-of-factly. “Are doing the play-by-play today for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Corona”.
“Parade?” I sputtered. “You’re kidding, right? The population is barely a hundred, and Main Street isn’t five blocks long!”
“No, I’m not kidding,” he said with a smile. “And we’ve been doing it for over ten years. It’s a very popular event, drawing dozens of participants and hundreds of spectators.”
I’ll be honest. I didn’t believe the “popular” part. But then I thought, why not? After all, it couldn’t be that bad, could it? Besides, I reckoned, Paul Zahn was one of the best play-by-play announcers I had ever heard. Surely there was something to be said for that!
Paul took it in stride that day, but then, he took everything in stride. That’s because he never could tell time, apparently, and was never on time for anything. He’ll probably be late for his own funeral.
I’m just the opposite. If it’s five minutes early, then I’m already ten minutes late. There has to be time for chaos, whatever your profession. Even if it is your own funeral.
Right off the bat, because of an early arrival, I was able to get sound bites from the parade participants. They included a polka band, a Peterbilt bull hauler, countless John Deere tractors, and an antique fire truck. I also located a picnic bench, strategically located in front of the town’s only watering hole, upon which we could stand while broadcasting. Little did I know, two hours before T-Time, just how valuable this tiny piece of real estate would become.
Along with an ever-growing number of entrants, which now included clown cars, high school marching bands, and hay wagon parade floats, the crowds of spectators swelled with each passing hour. I didn’t know whether to be alarmed or delighted. By the time Paul joined me, moments before the 4:00 PM start time, I was shocked to count three dozen parade groups and almost a thousand people lining the street.
We went “live” on the air, at that moment, and I introduced my partner as well as the purpose of our broadcast. I’m not sure I ever understood the purpose of the parade, but then, perhaps nobody else did either.
In response to my opening remarks, my on-air partner—-who had been to many of these parades in the past—-asked me if I knew the most interesting aspect of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Corona, South Dakota.
“Well, Roger, there are a thousand people here, today,” Paul said with a smile you could hear on the radio. “And there isn’t a single Irishman among them!”
As the Peterbilt approached our position, pulling an empty cattle trailer, I said, “Coming up next, Paul, is John Smith of Twin Brooks, South Dakota, driving a Cat-powered Pete 379, pulling a Merritt double-drop bull rack.”
To which Paul responded to the entire radio audience, “Roger Clark, I didn’t understand a single word that you just said!”
Featuring candy-throwing children, crepe-festooned trucks, antique tractors, and classic cars, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was a rousing, if brief, success. As the last of 30-some participants passed our made-for-radio broadcast perch—all in about 45 minutes— I couldn’t wait to do it again next year!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY. Never iron a 4-leaf clover because you don’t want to press your luck!
You can email Roger Clark at: [email protected]