Liz FlemingLiz Fleming

The sign in the hotel lobby said ‘Independence Day Parade in town at 4pm’.

Who doesn’t love a parade?

We headed for the central square, looking for the kind of orderly sidewalk lineups that characterize parades in Canada. Saying ‘Parade? Parade?’ in English didn’t help much with the Spanish speaking crowd either…so we simply joined the throngs of smiling people in the square. Maybe, we thought, they were about to line themselves up somehow, so the floats could arrive.

We quickly discovered that ‘parade’ on this island meant something entirely different. A parade was a reason to stand together in the street, passing rum from hand to hand, laughing and occasionally breaking into song. The only ‘float’ we saw was a pallet of straw and wood with two very happy kids sitting in the middle. Periodically a few strong men would raise the pallet and the kids into the air above the heads of the crowd and everyone would cheer. As the rum bottle came our way, groups of young boys came racing through the crowd, walloping everyone with what looked like slightly hairy, hard balloons. We learned later that these were inflated goat’s bladders and they were literally whacking the devil out of us – who’d have guessed?

My husband Jamie and I were the only non-locals in sight that day, but it didn’t matter. We were offered the rum bottles and whacked with the bladders and felt as if we were part of the festivities even if we had no clue what was going on.

We love that feeling of being dropped into the middle of something completely unexpected…of being immersed in a new community for a short but precious moment or two.

This year, we were in Sedona, Arizona for Hallowe’en night and decided to forego an elegant, adult dinner at our resort to check out what the local ghoulies and ghosties were up to instead.

The streets were decorated with pumpkins and lights and every storefront had costumed characters, handing out treats to an endless stream of kids. That’s how it’s done in Sedona. Everybody dresses up and heads downtown, resulting in the best block party imaginable, complete with homespun entertainment.

On a section of the street blocked off and strung with spooky lights, a troop of perhaps a hundred costumed ghouls filed into the square and froze. As we waited, the opening bars of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” began and the ghouls began a wonderfully choreographed graveyard dance that had clearly taken months to perfect. Ranging in age from about ten to eighty-plus, all the dancers were local and everyone had fans. Cheers that went up as favorites were recognized. “Did you see Sandy? She’s at the back. And there’s Bill, and Shelley.” Every dancer was applauded with wild enthusiasm.

It was a wonderful, warm, funny, authentic Sedona community night…and we just happened to be a part of it because we didn’t stay at our hotel.

Next time, do yourself a favor. Don’t stay at the resort. Go find out what the locals are doing for fun!

Liz Fleming


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