Yesterday, all over the United States, people celebrated Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of the Americas in 1492.
Maybe it would be impolite to mention that the Genoan was actually the second person to discover the continent (as much as any place with an indigenous people can actually be discovered). But Columbus was second by almost five centuries, to one Leif Ericson.
Columbus obviously had a better PR guy. But Ericson, a legendary Norse explorer who established a settlement in what is now Canada around the year 1,000, deserves at least equal recognition.
Maybe it’s my Swedish heritage, but I think we should be celebrating Leif Ericson today. Since that’s not likely to happen any time soon, I joined a hardy group of souls in Durham, N.H. ,Sunday morning to celebrate Ericson’s legacy.
For 36 years, a handful of area residents, many in period garb, have gathered for the Leif Ericson Parade. The parade starts at a local all-night laundromat and ends about 25 feet later at the entrance to Young’s restaurant, where everyone gathers to refuel after the 30-second walk. It’s called “the world’s shortest parade” for a good reason. And I should probably mention the parade begins at 6:30 a.m. It’s all over before the sun comes up.
The first parade was “held” in 1977, when two college professors, Noble K. Peterson and Mel Neilson, were doing their laundry and discussing the need to honor Ericson. So they marched to Young’s in his honor.
I’m proud of my heritage — the wedding rings my wife and I wear were worn by my great grandparents, who came to America from Sweden more than 100 years ago. I’ve wanted to take part in the parade for years, but had never been able to make it — until Sunday.
It was certainly an odd event, but one filled with kind, mellow people with a good sense of humor. I’ve had worse beginnings to a Sunday morning.
Here’s a video from 2008 I found on the web. I didn’t shoot it, obviously.