No one actually implored me to do so, but immediately following our imaginary 4th place finish in the neighborhood wagon parade last year, I began mapping a strategy for future victory.  My eventual goal was the construction of a scale replica of Liberty Island and have one or both snowflakes in appropriate attire wielding giant sparklers above their heads as we passed the judges’ station.

There were a few problems with this plan however, not the least of which was my lovely red headed wife’s likely objection to the use of pyrotechnics. I would’ve countered her concern with insistence that a stunning visual display would be a necessary component of victory and that a fire truck would be leading the parade (in the event of a worst possible outcome).  Still, the ensuing debate would’ve consumed valuable construction time, and although I’d like to think similar debates existed between George Washington and the Continental Congress, General Washington wasn’t staring at a July 4th deadline.

I conceded the point on the explosives before it moved from my imagination to the real world.  Additionally, concerned my idea was too New York-centric, I considered what to do beyond the Statue of Liberty.  I was never going to wear a Washington Nationals uniform, but everything else would be something to at least consider.

So… what if I traded New York for DC?   I would keep my twin Statues of Liberty but replace the New York City skyline with the DC monuments.  Easy enough… but my new construction only covered one side of the wagon.  Could I live with myself if I only decorated the judges-facing side?

Yes.  Yes, I could, but what would happen when my special snowflakes someday demonstrated a similar lack of commitment?  What would I say then?

Did I mention I’m claiming to have done this this for my daughters?  The time and money consumed?  I was merely attempting to set a good example.  “You should always paint both sides of the fence,” I’ll someday tell them.  “Because you’ll know whether you did or not.”

And with this thought in mind, I immediately set about destroying the competition.

I expanded my vision beyond DC as “Americana” became my new theme.  Remaining wagon decorations would involve images that invoked thoughts of the good ol’ USA.  Mount Rushmore was an easy choice… and then I realized I needed more eagles.

Actually, I can’t take credit for the eagles.  My graphic designer/former college roommate pointed out that my design was severely eagle-lacking, and he was absolutely correct.  His insight also allowed me to bank a few ideas for next year.  But one eagle?  I added three.  Would that be enough?  Time would tell.

I should mention my former roomate was also a proponent of real fireworks and give a quick Shout Out to everyone who knew me in college… just maybe every bad idea wasn’t mine alone.

Anyway…

The day finally arrived, but not before my lovely red headed wife and I dyed fabric (in it to win it!) for the snowflakes’ Statue of Liberty costumes.  This morning I donned an Uncle Sam hat (actually an old school Yankee hat–it’s on the logo, so it counts–we demonstrate subversion where we can in the suburbs!) and we were off to the parade…

Unlike last year, today there (surprisingly) weren’t too many wagon entries.  I found this disappointing… as I’d explained to my former roommate, my goal was to win so convincingly it would actively discourage the competition.  Next year I would be happy if fewer people decided to compete, but today I wanted a clear victory.  There were no participation trophies during the actual American Revolution.  Today would require a decisive victory as well.

And my girls’ amusement.  I don’t want to forget that.

The parade led us to the neighborhood pool and the eventual trophies.  The firetruck wound up not doing much more than leading the way… meanwhile, the first category during the awards ceremony?  Best wagon.

And much to our collective surprise, our names weren’t called.  My girls were distraught.

“We’ll win next year,” I gamely assured them while trying to figure our just what I could’ve done better.  Special Snowflake #1 sought solace in the form of french fries from the visiting meat truck… maybe not the worst idea… Special Snowflake #2 was not so readily consolable, but surely french fries could work their special magic on her as well… if not?  Well, I just didn’t know.

“And first prize for MOST PATRIOTIC goes to…” we hear over the loudspeaker before we can make any real progress toward the meat truck.  My girls’ names follow.  They’re elated.  Victory is theirs… and all because their father committed a silly amount of time to a neighborhood competition.

Is there a life lesson here that might serve us in the future?  Probably, but right now I’m busy basking in the glory of victory.  I ate a lot of celebratory french freedom fries too.  I might be feeling that as well.

As for Most Patriotic, even though we didn’t know it was a category, my girls decided it was the best possible thing to win… sort of like winning the All-Around during the Olympics (their words, not mine).

As for me, I hope General Washington would have been proud.  If not, my girls were, and that’s more than good enough.