Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Shriners in little cars

Parades are fun. Probably the most famous is Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade where giant balloons travel down the New York City streets to the delight of children everywhere. Also there's the Columbus Day Parade when the streets fill with drunken Italians mispronouncing "sausage". Plus, every day the Disney theme parks have at least one parade of costumed characters strolling past the attractions.

But, no parade is complete without one thing:


The Shrine is a legendary philanthropic organization that has created many hospitals to help all kinds of people with many different ailments. The Shrine members are called Shriners.

In order to raise money and awareness they go to parades and drive little cars.

Most of these cars have a 5 HP gas engine or better and are made by companies that specialize in cars for Shriners. Sometimes they don't even look like cars. Often they will drive little vans or tractor trailers. Heck, if it's small and it has wheels on it it's either part of a Shriner parade or a midget on roller-skates (forgive me, that sounded much funnier in my head.)

Usually these cars have a fiberglass body. That is fitted to a go cart
Frame. The cost of a Shriner car can range from just over $1000 to more than a real car (a really cheap car, but a real car nonetheless.)

When you see a Shriner behind the wheel of one of these cars, it is most likely his own car. The cars are never purchased by the Shrine, only individual Shriners. They also pay for all expenses involving maintenance and transporting the car.

Shriners also wear an interesting hat.

The red fez with a black tassel is the Shrine's official hat. It gets its name from the holy city of Fez, Morocco where it was created.

The practice of naming headgear after the city of its creation is rather common. The 'Bolwer' hat was named after Bowler, Ohio, and the 'Derby' after Derby, Wisconsin and the 'Beer Helmet' after Beer Helmet, New Jersey.

If you ever see a Shriner in a parade, give him a wave and be thankful that guys like him are out there. Then stand next to his car and pretend to be Andre the Giant. It's fun.

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