Was it really
the best ever?
Traditions are made to be broken. Or so people of younger ages like to say. That won’t happen in this week’s paper, however.
For more than 60 years — since well before this writer began a six-or-more-year school career of dodging horse droppings while lugging a 30-pound sousaphone down Main St. and tooting bump-bump-bumps a part of some musical classic like the “Peter Gunn” theme — this newspaper annually has pronounced Old Settlers Day the best ever.
Journalistic credibility occasionally has been stretched by such pronouncements.
Streets, particularly post-pandemic, no longer are lined six or seven deep. With few exceptions — this year’s from Eastmoor Church being one of the exceptions — floats are more likely to be unadorned hay racks than chicken-wire-and-napkin extravaganzas of old.
Meals in the park remain tasty and, in a year of rampant inflation, not a bad deal. But crowds with full bellies seem to thin out more quickly than before.
Merely surviving post-pandemic panic and increased apathy of generations that came between Baby Boomers and whatever you want to call our most recent graduates may be meritorious of a “best ever” accolade.
But watching the parade rather than being part of it for the first time in many years, your new Ol’ Editor discovered something else deserving of the honor.
Old Settlers 2022 clearly was the best-ever pre-season warm-up for the annual Halloween big game of kids filling burgeoning bags with enough candy to make insulin manufacturers want to open a few extra manufacturing lines.
All was not less than healthy, however. Kids could run off a few of the extra calories by scampering to and fro in quick-twitch drills aimed at making them the first to claim whatever largess was tossed anywhere near them by each passing parade unit.
That wasn’t the only “best ever,” however. While lamenting that the only sousaphone present was Greg Bowers’ Rube Band instrument, the old high school and college bandsman in me marveled at the size and talent of the Marion Middle School band and at the reappearance of a Marion High School band.
For years, band prospects were quite downbeat among modern students, but participating in band now appears to be on the upbeat once again. As with sports, quality comes from quantity of preparation, and seeing middle-schoolers learning how to work as a team to produce something that many of them will be able to continue producing throughout the rest of their lives — lifelong music, something sousaphones aren’t especially known for — was encouraging.
So, too, was the Rube Band. Although few rubes banded together this year, the group’s classic “Show Boy” sounded as good as if not better than ever thanks to one particular non-rube, world-class jazz trumpeter and retired music educator Mike Steinel, whose father, Conrad, was responsible decades ago for building years of band tradition in Marion by starting young, as the band now seems to be doing again.
Music came into play later in the day with a first-ever Old Settlers street dance. Less dancing than socializing seemed apparent, but the event still provided a nightcap for the day. And the many young children in attendance seemed to enjoy playing without need for supervision outside an area cordoned off for beer sales.
Still, the biggest factor making the 2022 edition of Old Setters a clear “best ever” were conversations that often uncomfortably began, “Bet you don’t remember me,” by people whose pimples of years ago have been replaced by wrinkles of today.
More than 160 years after the town’s founding, we may no longer have original old settlers to honor. But the spirit of remembering Marion, at least on one day a year, as Best Place I’ve Seen, lives on and annually makes Old Settlers always the best ever.
— ERIC MEYER