We've all heard the song ...
The sight of a drill will give me a thrill,
I thrill at the skill of everything military.
I love a parade, a handful of vets,
A line of cadets or any brigade,
For I love a parade.
But to really appreciate the sentiment, you have to not just watch a parade, but actually be in one. And so it was last Saturday I found myself dancing down West Venice Avenue in an airplane suityes, an airplane suit, I have pictureshanding out toy gliders to screaming kids and laughing adults. (They were laughing with me, not at me.)
Every year, the town organizes an annual Christmas parade that, heretofore, I have viewed as just one infuriating traffic jam. But this year, my pal Nick Carlucci, who leads the Venice Aviation Society, roped me into helping with the society's floata pickup truck with two inflatable airplane Santas (internally lighted) powered by a Honda portable generator. When I showed up at the appointed hour, he informed me that his regular airplane-suit dancer was out sick. Could I fill in?
Well, why not? Normally, I don't dance much when sober and since I gave up overindulgence 20 years ago, I'm a wallflower dancewise. But it turns out that when you don an airplane suit, you are seized by an overwhelming need to kick it up, even without benefit of strong drink. As a result, I didn't just shuffle down the parade route, I did the Fat Tuesday Jive, to the squealing glee of literally thousands of kids.
And we could use a little glee around here. While the aviation economy in general struggles through the doldrums, the airport in Venice, Florida suffers its own little pocket of misery. A group of anti-airport residents got themselves elected to the city council earlier this year, disbanded the all-volunteer airport advisory board and has generally gotten on the path to eroding support for the airport, if not closing it entirely. In this region, Venice Airport has, unfortunately, become the sad sack. While other Florida airports scoop up federal grants for runway and facility improvements, our airport chronically misses the boat due to governmental indifference.
But Carlucci and the Aviation Society think that will eventually swing the other way, and I agree. The local airport (and the town) has too much to offer to let it languish. By taking part in the parade, we aimed to put the airport back on the local map with some positive PR and fun, one toy glider at a time.
If winning stronger support for the airport requires a dance down the avenue in a silly suit, I think that's the least I can do. But next year, I'm making my own suitwith lights, pyrotechnics and music. After all, if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing.