Shriner Daredevils, 2012
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If it’s September in Virginia Beach and there are lots of old white men running around the oceanfront in funny costumes and wearing fezzes on their heads, it must be Shriner Season.
I’ve written enough about these guys in the past that they hardly warrant additional explanation. I’ll just say that this year’s group included only groups from the Mid-Atlantic region and that each year their numbers seem to get smaller and smaller. If this gathering is any indication, masonic life appears to be like bowling: you can find it in most any city, but it’s biggest in smaller towns where blue-collar fraternal organizations remain strong.
This year’s parade was replete with the usual mix of colorful costumes, rhythm bands, “Orientals” brandishing swords, honor guards with colorful pointy-toed shoes that curl up at the end, elderly “nobles” trying to get through “God Bless America” and remember the words to songs like “Ain’t She Sweet” and “My Old Kentucky Home,” clowns, hillbilly jugs band, go-karts, antique cars and other trappings of masonic brotherhood and Americana.
Shriners on Parade, 2012
As I’ve observed in the past, it’s easy to dismiss the cornball humor and jingoistic patriotism of these guys. But I give them a pass because Shriners have raised billions of dollars over the years to support a network of hospitals around the country that provide care for severely burned children and, more recently, children with advanced orthopedic issues without regard to race, creed or their ability to pay. Recessionary times and greater competition is making it harder for Shrine hospitals to stay viable. But local temple members get out and parade most anywhere they’re invited if they think it’ll help raise awareness and a few bucks for their cause.
Their slogan, “Strong legs run so that weak legs may walk,” may be a little exaggerated. I didn’t see any running at this year’s parade and more than a few of the heftier marchers were winded after just a few blocks of walking in Saturday morning’s hot and humid weather. But for their families and curious tourists caught up in Saturday morning’s parade, it was all in good fun and all for a good cause.
Khedive Temple Beach Boys, 2012