(This was my Undercurrents column for Dec. 20, 2009)
Antlers were everywhere: mounted on floats, on the grills of trucks pulling trailers, on ropes slung around the necks of children, on the headgear of passing dogs and donkeys – even on the target deer strung from a pole and “gutted” at the front of a boat being used as a parade float. It had a red nose, this deer, and red streamers spilled from its belly.
It wasn’t something you would have seen at the Panama City Jaycees Christmas Parade, which we had missed this year for the first time in a decade or more. Little on display at the annual Chumuckla Redneck Christmas Parade was (as you can see in photos on my blog at newsherald.com).
Thousands showed up at the country crossroads that marks a main artery through the unincorporated farming community a short drive north of Pace in Santa Rosa County. They gathered along County 197 last Sunday, and the rain held off long enough for the hour-long procession and then some.
Slow moving tractors, mud-covered pickups, stock cars, horses, buggies, 18-wheelers, four-wheelers and more eased through the puddles. On display were Confederate flags, comically misspelled signs, granny panties with the words “naughty” or “nice” written on them, garlands of beer cans and trees decorated with beer cans. One float had a tent marked “redneck resort,” a couple more featured girls in tree stands, and a couple of others led with bearded Santas in camo sitting on old toilets instead of “thrones.”
Costumes included wigs, caps of every condition, boots, fake “hillbilly” teeth, and camouflage — lots and lots of camo. Men carried spit cups. Some played musical instruments made of bed pans.
The riders threw Mardi Gras beads, Twinkies, packs of crackers, Slim Jims, Skoal cans, chicken feed, pecans wrapped in foil, novelty toys and other things — including actual candy. One float passed with a barbecue grill smoking, and a woman launched chicken hot off the grill into the crowd.
The parade was the climax of a weekend festival that included fishing games, a mullet toss and “cow patty bingo.” Everyone had a great time, laughing at themselves and the cultural stereotypes — and no doubt thumbing their noses at anyone who just isn’t in on the joke.
As a famous redneck once said, “I don’t care who ya are, that’s funny right there.”