The Anoka Light Up the Night Parade, Vulcans, and an excerpt from Legacy Falls.

THE LIGHT UP THE NIGHT PARADE:

Last Saturday, Ogre, Pooka and I went to the Light Up the Night Parade in Anoka. (The Boy, sadly, was too snuffly to want to stand outside on a cold, damp October night.) I didn’t get many good photographs, because I didn’t take a proper camera and tripod, but we had fun. (Chilly, chilly, fun.)

Pooka, in particular had a good time. If you’re a regular reader, you know she has a button-making business on Etsy. And she’s always had and affection for buttons of all sizes. She wanted to be sure to get this year’s commemorative button.

halloween button 2013

A few minutes after purchasing said button, while admiring a boxer puppy, she met the wife of a Vulcan krewe member, who assured her that — if she could catch the attention of a Vulcan — he would be happy to give her a button.

And this is Pooka — after we got home — proudly wearing both her 2013 Anoka Halloween AND her Vulcan krewe buttons … as well as the mark of her encounter with Vulcanus Rex.

vulcan mark

Confused?

I was too, for most of my life. Only since I started working on my novel, Legacy Falls, have I understood ANYTHING about these men who show up at the Halloween parade, smear face paint on people, then disappear. Allow me to share some of what I learned when I researched the organization for inclusion in my novel:

THE VULCANS:

vulcan krewe 2013

What is a “krewe”?

Wikipedia – A krewe (pronounced in the same way as “crew”) is an organization that puts on a parade and/or a ball for the Carnival season. The term is best known for its association with New Orleans Mardi Gras, but is also used in other Carnival celebrations around the Gulf of Mexico, such as the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Florida, and Springtime Tallahassee as well as in La Crosse, Wisconsin and at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

What’s the story of Minnesota’s Vulcan Krewe?

The Vulcan krewe, The Imperial Order of Fire and Brimstone, does not sponsor or organize the Anoka Halloween parade. Rather they make appearances at several of the Minnesota’s parades, while working most intensively with the St. Paul Winter Carnival. (Which does not coincide with the season of Carnival, but rather celebrates deep winter.)

If you want to know more about the New Orleans krewes, click: Mardis Gras New Orleans

THE VULCANS IN MY LIFE:

When I was a kid, the Vulcans fascinated me. These costumed men were allowed to chase and grab us. They smudged the cheeks of the girls, and drew moustaches on the boys. I couldn’t understand why their rowdy behavior was so well-tolerated by the adults around me — adults who would normally kill anyone who looked sideways at one of us kids. When I asked who and what they were, no one seemed to know. They were a mystery I’d never been able to solve.

Which is why, I suppose, that they found their way into my work-in-progress. (See excerpt, below.)

Nowadays, the Vulcans are a kinder, gentler, more PC, krewe. They don’t chase people through the crowd anymore, and they apply their face paint marks, on willing victims, with a grease stick. I guess that’s a good thing.

Click “read the rest of this entry” to see the excerpt*.

*It’s actually one of those darling that I need to kill, or at least eviscerate. But I still like it.

Moments later, Will parallel parked on 5th Avenue. “I think this is as close as we’re going to get,” he announced. To Lizzy, he said, “Do you think Andrew can make it from here and back?”

From his booster seat, Andrew shouted, “yes!”

Lizzy laughed. “I suspect we’ll be carrying him by the end of the night, but this looks all right.”

They walked slowly through the rapidly thickening darkness toward the noise buzzing from Main Street. As they got closer, they had to fall into step with a swaying press of costumed people, all seeking a space from which to view the parade. By the time they reached Main, it was lined three or four people deep, not counting the jostle of little ones occupying the gutters.

Lizzy’s family wove through the throng toward Aunt Elizabeth, who was waving from the bed of her truck, which she had parked in the lot of Lundstrom’s Drugstore earlier in the day. Lizzy and Will murmured soothing sounds to the creatures around them as they guided Andrew and Minna toward the safety of the family’s viewing platform.

Just as they reached the truck, a powerful alarm shrieked in the distance. They hurried to greet Aunt Elizabeth and organize themselves before the fire engines that traditionally led the parade came into view. Lizzy settled into a lawn chair with Andrew on her lap. Will and Aunt Elizabeth flanked her and Minna sat on the tailgate. The rest of the family hadn’t yet arrived.

From the elevation of the truck bed, Lizzy could survey the people around them and across the street. She had a brief opportunity to scan for familiar faces before another blast roared from the air horns and the street lights blinked out. The swarm that ranged along the nine blocks of the parade route, from 1st Avenue to Baker Parkway, increased its hum. 

The curb lights came on again for a full ten seconds—at this point in the night Lizzy always imagined Mayor Heissman flipping a switch in some hidden basement laboratory—before going out again for the duration of the parade. The procession began.

Judging by his wiggling and bouncing, Andrew especially enjoyed the float sponsored by the Legacy Falls Lions. It was a massive, circus-like cage, wreathed with green lights and silk vines, confining more than a dozen full-grown men decked out in matching lion suits. The seemingly endless line of convertibles overflowing with beauty queens—from counties near and far—left him bored, but he clapped loud and long for a pack of obedience school graduates—a motley collection of excited dogs ranging in size from Dachshund to Dane, each dressed in a costume that coordinated with that of its handler. He wiggled out of Lizzy’s lap to dance when the Wallace Terran Junior High band marched past, playing a nearly unrecognizable version of the theme from “The Twilight Zone”. Not long after the band passed, Andrew crawled back into Lizzy’s lap and fell asleep.

Midway through the parade, Lizzy saw Lauren and Abby struggling toward the truck through the crowd. Lauren clamoured into the bed and sat on the hump covering the wheel, near her mother. Abby settled onto the tailgate next to Minna. Seeing the two girls together reminded Lizzy that their uncle, John Robert, intended to sic one of the younger Vulcans on them. She wondered if Will knew what was about to happen.

The first time she had attended the parade with Will, they had been 17. When the Vulcans’ red fire engine had appeared, Will had pushed her behind him and looped his arms backwards around her waist. As soon as the last Vulcan had run past he had released her.

What was that about?” She had asked him.

You’re taken now. By custom, they can’t have you anymore.”

It had never occurred to her to think the Vulcans had specific customs. As far as she knew, they were just men who chased pretty girls at the Halloween parade.When she had once asked about the strange men in devil costumes and face paint, her Aunt had suggested they must be a fraternal organization, like the Lions or the Knights of Columbus. 

Confused, and wondering what Will—a transplant to Legacy Falls—could possibly know about Vulcans, she had questioned him further. He had been astonished she hadn’t recognized them for what they were. It was then he told her about the Mardis Gras Krewes of New Orleans, and how they each sponsored one of the famous parades.

“I think it’s not exactly the same,” he’d said, “but it’s hard to mistake a krewe for anything else.” He had leaned down to kiss her. When he’d come up for air, his expression was urgent. “You need to see where I came from, Lizzy. We’ll start by going to Mardi Gras. We’ll stay at one of the fancy hotels on Bourbon Street. The spring after we graduate.”

Later that night, they had made love for the first time. 

And less than a year later, Lizzy was pregnant with Minna.

The trip to New Orleans had never happened. Until recently, the closest Lizzy had come to Louisiana was when, first Will, then John Robert, had joined the Vulcans. These days, Will wasn’t as involved as he’d once been, but John Robert was completely committed, and this was his running year.

When Lizzy finally saw the Vulcans approaching, she nudged Will and nodded in their direction. The two of them watched as one tall, red-clad figure jumped from the engine and ran directly toward the truck. The crowd in front of Lundstrom’s Drug roared. At first Minna and Abby didn’t seem to realize that they were the devil’s target. As he neared, the young man pointed at the truck and whooped. Suspicion dawning, both girls scrambled backward. Abby bumped into Lizzy’s knees and squealed. Lizzy’s arms tightened around Andrew but he barely stirred.

The Vulcan was almost close enough to touch the vehicle. Minna gauged her situation, then launched herself over the side of the truck. The Vulcan veered from the tailgate and pursued her. Nearby observers ‘accidentally’ interfered with Minna’s flight, while melting away from the Vulcan. She hadn’t gone four steps when her caught her.

Lizzy caught a glimpse of Minna’s wide, excited eyes before the girl’s hair swung around and hid both her face and that of the young man who had captured her. Lizzy knew that the Vulcan would rub his face hard against her daughter’s skin. She didn’t know if he would be bold enough to snatch a kiss. A split second later, he spun away and sliced back through the crowd to the street. Minna raised her hand to her cheek while the people around her clapped and cheered. With luck, Minna’s Vulcan had been considerate. If he had shaved closely before the parade, he might not have left whisker burn under the long smear of red grease paint that streaked her daughter’s cheek.

Abby leaned out of the truck and addressed Minna. A passing float, with massive speakers blaring a fast reel and the voice of a square dance caller, eliminated any chance that Lizzy would be able to overhear their words, but she saw them both laugh. She turned back to the parade and marveled at the layers of pastel petticoats worn by the square dancers.

A flash of scarlet caught her eye. She peered past the float to see a last, trailing Vulcan catch a tall, blond woman who had retreated into the street in a vain attempt to avoid capture. She was sure it was John Robert. He held the woman for a beat too long before he released her and chased after his engine. Before Lizzy could get a look at her face, the blond stepped back into the crowd lining the curb on her side of the street and vanished.

Lizzy watched the rest of the procession. She was always impressed by the organizational skills of those who arranged the Torchlight Parade. The merriest elements came first—clowns throwing candy, costumed dogs, Vulcans. As the event wore on, the mood of the parade units changed, until it came time for the veterans to pass. Preceded by a lone flag bearer—sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl, but always beautiful—carrying a pristine Old Glory, they marched up the street with eyes front. In the best years—and this was one of those years—the people lining the route fell quiet and rose to their feet, like a slow motion wave, as the veterans came on. Each soldier, sailor and airman carried a small lantern lit with a real flame—the only live fire in the entire battery-powered parade. Something about the approaching unit bothered Lizzy. As she bent to set her sleepy son on his feet, it dawned on her. Half of those marching were young and square-shouldered.

As intended, the veterans soothed the crowd. Moving past, they somehow absorbed and dissipated the manic edge of the evening’s mood. Behind them, the fire engines followed at a respectful distance, not sounding their horns on this second pass down Main. The streetlights came on in block long chunks, well behind the last vestiges of the parade.

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