The parade at downtown Edwardsville yesterday night was a jamboree. As early as six o’ clock in a car driving towards the venue of the annual Halloween rally, I had wondered if all of America had decided to converge here after all. The traffic was long, some roads had been closed, there were policemen at every junction, and all visible parking lots were already filled up. On roadsides were people in different costumes in family-size groups. On another side were tents and sheds, and people preparing for the parade.

I eventually made it to a safe place to park, and headed out to the road to await the start of the parade. It was cold, very cold. (You don’t have to take my word for it. I’m Nigerian. But remember that by this time last year, I’d already bought gloves.) Between six thirty and six forty-five the first group marched by. They were a band of firefighters from the city with musical instruments and a matching costume. They were followed by a bunch of school children also in costumes, and musical instruments. It soon became clear that the parade was going to follow a similar pattern. From then until about eight thirty when I have had enough, there were trains of people, cars, politicians, little children and uniformed employees who had come out to celebrate the season the way they’d done so for years.

There was plenty sweets (or candy) to go around, as any of the kids on the side of the roads watching the parade and catching them as they are flung would admit. Maybe for them, it would be enough to justify their coming out in such a cold weather. On the other hand, maybe it’s not that cold or the event would have taken place in the early fall or summer. But then, doesn’t the Mardi Gras take place in February when it’s the coldest? The other way to look at it is that this is one time during the year when whole families come out for a common purpose that is neither political nor polarizing. I saw three year olds, and I saw seventy-year olds, and a town suddenly made alive in a hopeful celebration of optimism and the fact that life always goes on.

I’m glad I went. I was a good chance to breath the fresh air of the outdoors, though I’d have preferred if it was just a little less cold.

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