Parade Fail, Tucson, and Christmas

December 17, 2016
by Andy Littleton

Travel back with me a moment. Just before Christmas last year Chaz emailed me a link to sign up for the Downtown Parade of Lights, and without too much debate, we decided to enter the church into the parade. No problem. We’d take my flatbed trailer and deck it out. We’d hook a generator up and light up the night. And just to make it interesting we’d strap our bikes to it (instead of towing it with the car) and have a little piñata party along the way. Everyone would love it!

We pumped the idea with a little social media, we spread the word, we scheduled our first build day. It was just me…and Chaz. Ok, that’s cool, we’ve got this! A Harbor Freight trailer dolly, some PVC pipe, the leftover decorations from various relatives, and an old bike rack. Our buddy Sean meandered across the street. He has an adult trike…now we’re on to something. The trailer dolly is reimagined…the adult trike loses it’s basket and gains a heavy duty receiver hitch. We hitch up the trailer to the bike and start to pedal. The trailer’s heavy…the balance is off…I’m thrown off the trike like it was a bucking bronco. The trike bounces into 3rd street. It’s ok, we’ve got this! Some minor design tweaks come into play. We add two bikes, front wheels removed, to the bike rack now screwed onto the back of the trailer. We get Sean on a bike, and three of us are pedaling my flatbed down the road. We’ve got this!

Fast forward to parade day. We’re in Armory Park. Trailer and bikes in place. The big PVC Christmas tree is coming together. We have the lit up reindeer, reindeer that move, on the trailer tongue. Strands of lights are dangling, and most importantly…there’s lots of candy in the back seat, to go in the piñatas. We’ve SO got this!

We crank up the generator…it all lights up…glorious. It’s shining bright. We did it! Wait…the lights aren’t on anymore. String lights are the worst! Wait, they’re back on! They’re off again…is it the generator? Is that a generator? Well…not exactly, it’s a battery pack. Does it need charged? Yeah, it’s dead…and we don’t have the plug. We’re texting friends…”Hey do you happen to have a generator on you, and are you within 5 minutes of downtown?” Needless to say, we didn’t get any great leads.

Dejected, we coiled up our light strands, disassemble the PVC, stash the bikes in the house, and take a walk to the Downtown Parade of Lights to be mere spectators.

We failed.

I think it dawned on us, about halfway through the parade, that a couple of the floats weren’t fully functioning. One had lights that weren’t working.  There were a couple floats that…as far as we could tell…were just cars with people waving from them. We realized that we could have paraded our little non-lit float down the street, and we would have fit right in…lights or no lights.

That’s one of the things I love about Tucson, and one of the things I love about Christmas. I only moved away from Tucson once. I went did big city life in Chicago for a bit. I missed a lot of things about Tucson while I was there. The weather of course…the mountain views…the fact that I could drive out of the city without calling it a “day trip”. But perhaps what I’ve come to love most about Tucson is a little less hard to define. In this case, it’s the fact that it’s got the feel of a city (it’s no small town), but I still keep being reminded that I could enter the parade even if the lights don’t light. Can you imagine downtown Chicago’s parade with a goofy little flatbed trailer with a PVC Christmas tree, and run down battery pack only giving off spurts of Christmas light and cheer? There’s no way! But in Tucson I’ve learned, it’s not only imaginable, it’s totally cool. Looking back, I kind of think people would have loved it if we’d paraded our little float through the streets. I mean, they sent us an email invite again this year. The organizers weren’t too embarrassed that we dropped out at the last minute.

That hard-to-define thing I love about Tucson, is also so true of Christmas. Think about the first Christmas. Two people so poor they can’t rent a room. Two people that, when they give temple offerings, are only asked to give the turtledove. That means they don’t have great lives. In fact, Joseph would work as a carpenter in Nazareth. Nazareth was a town where you most likely worked for the Romans. His job was as glamorous as working for Wal-Mart or the big low-paying landscape company. He worked for the “machine”. Jesus probably apprenticed under the “machine” too as he grew up.

Mary of course was pregnant too soon…their lives were not what anyone would have planned. Except perhaps God. The hard-to-believe thing about the first Christmas is that God would actually enter in to creation. Harder to believe is that he’d orchestrate such a humble parade to Bethlehem. It’s hard to believe that the moment of divine intervention was so common, as to have been witnessed by dubious and dirty shepherds from the hillside. That they would have been the spectators God invited first.

What I love about Christmas is that God invited a young teenager to carry his Son into the world. That he invited a poor craftsman to watch after them and parade them into Bethlehem on his donkey. That he invited the least trusted social class, the shepherds, to be the witnesses of his advent. That he invited the Romans and the despised Israelites of Nazareth to see the Son of Man grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man. And I love that Jesus, when he grew up and began his ministry, invited fishermen, tax collectors (the traitors!), notorious sinners of all sorts, women of the night, as well as religious leaders, Roman centurions, and lawyers…to leave behind the lives they thought would give life…and join him on a journey of being lights to the world. In Jesus all are welcome. Nobody is too humble. In fact, the more humble the better. It’s a beautiful thing, and I love that I get to experience glimpses of the beauty here in my hometown.


  1. I almost decided to show up and participate in the parade. Chaz was a great salesman, but there was nothing in me that has ever once thought, “I wish someone would ask me to ride in a parade.” Maybe the rodeo parade, but that’s a completely different Tucson story. 🙂

    Katie | December 17th, 2016 - 17:53:11 | > Reply
    1. Haha! I didn’t realize Chaz tried to rope you into that (rodeo parade pun intended).

      Andy Littleton | December 26th, 2016 - 18:58:51 | > Reply

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