CHERRY BLOSSOM PARADE

Drizzly Day Fails to Drown Marchers' Enthusiasm

Patty Preston helps maneuver cherry blossom balloons along Constitution Avenue during the soggy Parade of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The balloons supported breast cancer prevention.
Patty Preston helps maneuver cherry blossom balloons along Constitution Avenue during the soggy Parade of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The balloons supported breast cancer prevention. (By Andrea Bruce -- The Washington Post)

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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 9, 2006

Honestly. Why would anyone go to a parade when it's 48 degrees and raining buckets, and winds gusts are whipping around at 35 miles per hour?

Here's why:

Because Emma Hecht, 14, began washing cars and selling cookies at the beginning of last summer so she could play her clarinet in Washington's Parade of the National Cherry Blossom Festival yesterday, sloshing through the downpours and wind to entertain a slight but enthusiastic crowd.

The ninth-grader from Blue Springs, Mo., spent almost a year raising money for her first trip to the nation's capital. She matched the green rubber bands on her braces to the sparkly sash on her band uniform and said she still had a great time yesterday.

Because little Corey Pasour, who just turned 7, spent every Sunday of the past year practicing with the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko drummers, so he could balance on a red and white float and beat his taiko drum in the rain.

"It was hard when the rain kept going in my eyes and I couldn't see," Corey said. "But it was fun."

When the float came to the end of the route and Corey splashed around in his wet tabi socks, his grandmother, Miki Pasour, was there to wipe him down and warm him up. "You did really well," she told him.

Because in Deer Park, Tex., Guy Napier, 17, helped at spaghetti dinners and sold "a lot of random junk" for months so he could ride 1,400 miles in a bus, then march 10 blocks down Constitution Avenue, lugging a sousaphone that "was heavier and heavier at every block."

His glasses were dripping, his polyester uniform was waterlogged. "A little rain wasn't going to stop us after all these months of planning and work, ma'am," Guy chirped.

Because an elementary school from Prince George's County made blossom parade history yesterday, having the first marching band in the event, the students said, made up of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.

The Robert R. Gray Elementary School band had high-steppers, drummers, trombone players and so on. The marchers were tiny. But their sound was huge.

"That's my boy, right there! He's the president of his class," squealed Teresa Glover, one of dozens of parents running alongside the band throughout the parade route, as she pointed to a very short and very serious drummer on the end of one row.

"The rain. Oh, the rain. It didn't matter. The kids were so excited," she said.

And because if you keep going to parades in Washington, as have Lashawnda Riley, 28, and her mother, Sharon Bibbs, 50, eventually you learn to make them fun.

"Born and raised in D.C., I go to all of them," Riley said.

With five lawn chairs for mom, grandma and three kids, plus five umbrellas, five sandwiches, snacks and at least 10 juice boxes, the family was undaunted by the rain.

And without the large crowds, they had street-side seats, all to themselves.


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