Makawao parade

Today, at the age of 34, I walked in my first parade.

Specifically, the Makawao Paniolo Parade in Makawao, Maui, a 4th of July event that’s popular enough to shut down traffic flow around Makawao and bring in both kama’ainas and visitors; keikis, aunties and titas; and of course animals and motorized vehicles of all varieties. About 50 floats, bands and other groups follow a 1/2 mile route from Veteran’s Cemetery up Baldwin Avenue, right on Makawao Avenue and ending at Eddie Tam Center. It’s all part of the 3-day Makawao Rodeo, a staple event in upcountry Maui.

How did I get in to such a presitigious parade? Easy, I crashed it with my dogs.

OK, let me clarify that statement. I didn’t exactly crash it, but I certainly snuck in at the last moment. Here’s the story. Last night my wife Gen informs me that the local dog owners in our neighborhood were getting together the next morning to talk about raising money to establish a dog park in Eddie Tam. Oh, and by the way they were also going to walk in the Paniolo parade. Now I LOVE parades, but Gen (who had been in a few when she was young) doesn’t, so she didn’t think the parade plan all that important. I, on the other hand, nearly fell out of my seat in my eagerness. “Really! Parade?! We are totally going to do that!” I declared, even if it meant getting up at 6:30am to get to the parade line-up. Gen was not having it but, as always, was fully supportive of my whims. “It’s all you, honey.”

Flash to this morning when I literally popped out of bed, doused myself in sunscreen, hooked our boys Mishu & Poky to their leads and walked the mile out to Eddie Tam to find the dog walking group. When we get to what looked like a staging area – amongst horses, bag pipe players, unicyclists and early rising parade goers – I ran into a promising group of folks standing around with dogs.

“Um, Are you here for the dog thing?” I asked one.

“I think so,” he said.

“Great, me too.”

That was it. I was in! Turned out this group was with the Maui Humane Society, where Gen had picked up Poky as a puppy about 7 years ago. That was all the legitimacy our pack needed. After waiting around for about an hour to get a ride to the start of the parade route, and after another hour and a half of waiting to start (the parade started at 9am but we were one of the last groups), we were marching – about 15 dogs, some with owners and some with Humane Society staff (the latter were all available for adoption), followed by the “Animobile” blasting “Who let the dogs out“. Some of the dogs were quite decked out, with stars & stripes hats and vests; others (like ours) were given a simple bandana for decoration. But there we were, walking into Makawao Town in the official parade.

I have to admit I was a little worried about the dogs with all the people, horses, trucks and – most worrying – other dogs around. But turns out Mishu & Poky are natural parade dogs. They played the crowd like politicians, visiting every keiki and auntie who wanted to pet them, staying long enough for a good pet but keeping forward progress in front of the animobile (they even impressed a real politician, Maui County Councilmember Mike Victorino, who is also the father of Phillies outfield Shane Victorino). There must have been hundreds of photos taken of them as they walked by or “posed” with the keiki. And me? I was a proud papa, happy that our dogs were model citizens and definitely stoked to be walking in my first parade ever.

Which brings me back to crashing the parade. Sure I had an “in” with the Maui Humane Society. But really all I did was show up with some dogs, find other people with dogs, ask “are you with the dog thing?” and I was in. I honestly believe anyone could do that for just about any parade.

Is this a deception? Is crashing a parade wrong? I believe as long as it is part of your local community, the answer is no. Parades are about bringing communities together, and an inclusive parade reflects an inclusive community. And I definitely felt included, seeing friends (one of whom took the picture above), kids from the neighborhood and their parents, and the dozens of other locals that I will be sure to recognize and say hi to in the weeks and months to come.

So community-minded New Yorkers, don’t be shy! March along with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade if you want to!

Just don’t forget to bring your dog as your ticket in.