Wilderness Wally's Americana
FROM NEW ZEALAND - Originator of the 'Birthday Season'

Currently in Auckland: NZST

Wednesday, 22nd of May 2024


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I love a parade


In 1995, we put it all together. Led by the late Sir Peter Blake, with Tom Schnackenberg leading the design team we achieved what was thought to be the impossible.

Like the earlier New Zealand campaigns, NZL-38 swept through the challenger rounds but this time went on to beat Dennis Conner in the America's Cup Match and bring the famous icon back to New Zealand's shores.

In fitting tribute, the city of Auckland hosted a ticker tape parade down Queen Street to welcome home the victorious sailors.

On the day, thousands of people lined the parade route and hundreds of thousands more watched on television. I suspect the entire country came to a standstill.

In the crowd that day were Mrs Wilderness and two lady friends. One of the women was a Brit and the other, a red-haired firebrand American named Bonnie. Bonnie came to New Zealand some years before aboard a private sailing yacht, working her way across the seas as the ship's cook. (Picture of Bonnie all asea.) Once in New Zealand she met a Kiwi sailor (third mate on the Tasman Line,) married him and they settled down to live in New Zealand.

On the day of the parade, the girls went into town early and managed to get a spot on the footpath just behind some children seated on the curb. Yes, even the area schools had been let out to celebrate. It wasn't long before the din of the crowd started to rise and the front of the parade came into view.

Leading the procession there was a guy dressed in a clown outfit. As he approached, one could see he was carrying two flags, an American and a New Zealand, one in each hand.

I'm sure the 'clown' was carried away by the spirit of the moment, after all he was leading a parade celebrating New Zealand's first win in the America's Cup race. Add to that the fact that Sailing is almost a religion to this island nation; Auckland's motto is "The City of Sails." Also, the New Zealand team had taken away an award the Americans had held for many years. I suspect he didn't mean to disrespect all the things the American flag means to Americans but, in a moment of excitement and abandon, he threw the American flag down on the ground and then stepped on it, grinding it into the asphalt as if signifying the Kiwis crushing the Americans.

It took only fraction of a second for Bonnie to react. As she leaped over the startled kids sitting on the curb she was yelling; "Don't you dare do that to that flag!" There may possibly have been a warning in there of what she was going to do to the clown when she got to him.

I think the definition of a fraction of a second might be the time it took for the clown to realize he had made a mistake. He reached down, picked up the flag and started running for his life down Queen Street with this screaming redhead and the rest of the parade in hot pursuit.

Immediately two things happened, the crowd, assuming this was one of the highlights of the parade began cheering as the clown then Bonnie went running by and, the rest of the parade picked up the pace to to keep up with the clown and Bonnie.

Meanwhile, back in San Diego, Bonnie's son and his family are watching the televised parade being beamed to Southern California from New Zealand. All of a sudden he spots his Mother, she running down the street, the second feature in the America's Cup parade, following the running clown that was at the head. As you can imagine, he wondered how his Mother had managed to get such a prominent place in this historic celebration.

Bonnie never did catch the clown so we assume he survived without injuries. The girls eventually met up and discussed the merits of running down Queen Street with no traffic to contend with. Yes, the video recorder was on and Bonnie had a record of her fifteen minutes of fame at the head of an America's Cup victory parade. Also, there is one more clown that possibly understands the meaning of "Don't Tread On Me" with regard to any nation's flag, especially "Old Glory."


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