You could easily pass through Carey, Idaho without giving the town a second thought. And I probably would have, had a local law enforcement officer not appeared in the middle of the road, directly in front of me. I figured something must be happening up ahead, and rather than sit in the middle of the street, I figured I’d explore on foot. What I found, completely by accident, was Carey, Idaho’s 2006 homecoming parade.
This is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen anymore, in most parts of America. It seemed the entire town had turned out, and was standing beside the road…
…watching teenagers drive by on ATV’s…
… in the back of dump trucks (apparently they were playing the dreaded Bulldogs)…
… and on flatbed trailers.
Basically, the procession of a half-dozen vehicles drove down the road, turned around, and came back. It was all over in just a few minutes, when the homecoming queen and her subjects rolled by.
As I watched the parade, a few things struck me. First, I thought, this must be one of the town’s biggest events of the year. Cars were parked by the side of the road, families had set up lawn chairs–it was a big deal. And surprisingly, no one seemed to wonder why an outsider was wandering down the street, taking pictures of their parade.
Second, I watched the kids in the procession. In a bigger city, it would probably be terribly un-cool to participate in something so corny. Many of the kids weren’t exactly waving enthusiastically, but just the fact that they were willing to participate at all was remarkable.
And finally, I realized that every kid was white. Then I looked at the families lined up at the side of the road, and they were all white, too. It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a minority in several days (only six people out of every thousand in Idaho are black, according to the 2000 census, and in Carey, Idaho, only one person out of the town’s 513 people identified himself as black†). It was all a little too pure, a little too 1950’s TV-sitcom-ish, and even though no one was doing anything wrong, the homogenous nature of my surroundings made me feel just a touch uncomfortable.
But at that point, the road block was removed, and by the time I had mulled over these thoughts, Carey, Idaho was already in my rear-view.
Note: This trip was first published in 2006. Much of the same area was covered in the Big Sky trip in 2014.