It takes a whole village to raise a ruckus

Off the coast of Norway is The Mother of All Whirlpools.

It’s called the Saltstraumen Maelstrom and is considered the world’s wildest whirlpool. Rumor has it that if any ship gets near its outer ring, it’ll be sucked in and swriled down to Davy Jones’ Locker faster than you can say Glogg. Or glug, either, for that matter.

I’ve never been within 1,000 of the Maelstrom, nor do I need to, in order to understand its power, because that’s what Winter Carnival is to me.

Sometime during the summer, the Carnival Committee announces the theme, and at that point I start getting drawn in. At first it’s mild. I mull over the theme a bit, think how the Brothers of the Bush can carry out the theme. That is, of course, wishful thinking at its best. Conforming to the Carnival theme (or anything else) is not the Brothers’ forte.

And now you ask, “Do the Brothers even have a forte?”

We do. In fact, we have two of them.

One is we get done what needs to get done. By this I mean by the time Carnival looms on the immediate horizon, we hustle hither, thither and yon, taking care of all the details so we’re ready on parade day. I realize when we strut our stuff down Broadway, we look more like ragtag survivors of an Arctic expedition gone wrong than any sort of coordinated, synchronized, uniform organization. And the former is probably closer to the truth than the latter. Still, even that level of ragtag took a bunch of behind-the-scenes effort.

For example, once the Carnival theme is announced, we have to figure what our theme’s gonna be, because it sure isn’t gonna be the Carnival’s. I mean, after 12 years, why should we spoil our perfect record?

So how do we decide on our theme?

Well, saying “we” decide it is a tad bit of exaggeration. The truth is I decide it, all by my lonesome. Let’s get real – it’s a lot easier for me to decide than trying to get 15 know-it-all individualists to agree on anything. And they’re fine with it anyway, especially since it saves them having to decide on a common time to meet, let alone actually showing up.

Once the theme is settled, the real work begins. After all, anyone can declare anything a theme, but to put it in action is a whole different issue altogether. And therein lies the Brotherood’s genius: Each specific chore is jobbed out to a specialist.

For example, weaponry is assigned to our official armorer — Br. Nate Casaregola.

Poster slogans are done up by The Czar of Signage, Br. Bruce Young.

Frere Russ Defonce makes the accessories necessary to add that certain je ne sais quois.

How about our fabulous Bubkes Bucks, the bills we hand out during the parade (by the thousands, I might add)? They’re all hand-drawn by our staff cartoonist, Bro Mike Cochran.

Then of course there’s our float. The design is created by The Pharaoh of Phloat Phabrication – Br. Huey Mcgill. Then, after he’s figured out the design, The Minions of Float Making — Huey and Br’s. Ron Burdick and John Gilette do the actual work.

And that’s it for getting stuff ready, right?

Wrong.

Unsung heroes

If we’re going to have a float, we need a vehicle, and that means someone has to offer it up. Last year was hard to beat, with our wood-fired hot tub (“Three Studs in a Tub”), the tub, trailer, and truck being Br. Jack Drury’s. I may bestow the title The Vizir of Vehicles on Jack permanently, as this year it’s his four-wheeler we’ve drafted into service.

But after we’ve decided on the components of our parade unit, there are always previously-unforeseen problems to be dealt with. For example, this year, our float makers realized they were too old and too abstemious to put the float together outdoors. They needed an indoor garage, preferably a heated one. But where to get one? It ain’t like ya just snap your fingers and a garage suddenly appears. Uh-uh.

Basically, I turned to The Brothers’ Official Shah of Shelters – Tom Hyde. For years, Tom has generously let us use his office building as a hangout before the parade. It’s great to have coffee on our left (the Mobil station). beer on our right (The Vets’ Club), and a warm indoors, complete with a bathroom. The only downside is it’s where Br. Cameron Anderson rehearses his bagpipes, but we’ve learned to accept hearing loss in the name of art.

Anyhow, Hyde’s has a garage – a big, warm garage, I might add. And in typical fashion, Tom immediately arranged for us to have it for the float construction.

Never too cold, never too much fun

This is some of what we go through to get our parade unit up and running. Now take that and multiply it by 85 or so, and you can see how many hours and how many people are needed just for the parade.

And all this points out one of the two most important aspects of Winter Carnival: None of it would happen if the folks of My Home Town weren’t generous with their time, money, spaces, expertise, energy and Lord knows what else. It’s the Iceberg Effect: What you actually see of Carnival represents only ten percent of the effort that went into producing it. The other 90 percent remains unseen, and – due to generosity and modesty — unspoken.

And what’s the second most important aspect of Carnival?

It’s fun, pure and simple.

Early in this column I said The Brotherhood has two fortes. I explained the one about getting our jobs done; the other one is we know how to have fun. And fun is what it’s all about.

What Carnival is not about is gain of any conventional sort — not monetary, not status, not competitive, not nuthin’. All the organizations and groups may be working their duffs off, but it’s only so everyone has a blast.

People often say that kids love Winter Carnival, and of course they do. But so do adults, adolescents, ancients, and for all I know, even the Dearly Departed. And we have 10 — count ’em, 10 — full days of it, and almost all of it is either free or for pennies.

When I was young, I remember adults referring the fleeting nature of Life with two expressions – “Time flies,” or “Life is too short.” Now that I’m in my dotage, I’m painfully aware of both the flying and the shortening…and my inability to slow down either.

But even if I can’t slow them down, I can do one thing, which is pack in as many fun times as I can.

You can bet your bip that’s exactly what I’ll do for all ten days of Carnival.

And guess what? You and all your friends are welcome to join me and the rest of the mob in the hootin’, hollerin’, and wicked-good times.

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