This year I wasn't just watching the parade: I was the parade, or part of it. I served as the parade's bona fide prom queen, in keeping with this year's parade theme, with Reds mascot Gapper as my tuxedoed date. We rode in an ivory-colored Cadillac you didn't have to be a car enthusiast to appreciate.
I wore a long red dress and a tiara, he a tuxedo and top hat. And as we sat atop that Cadillac, smiling and waving, I couldn't help but be amazed. The fans truly had come out in droves, never mind the nippy weather and early start. Cincinnati may have been robbed of their tradition of playing in Major League Baseball's season opener, but when it comes to Opening Day, the city can't be outdone.
It wasn't just the fans, either. As I rode to the parade, all it took was a honk of the horn from the driver to evoke loud whoops from the Reds mascots and Rally Packers riding in the truck bed behind.
And as the Caddy toured the parade route at a whopping 2 miles per hour, fans screamed and shouted from sidewalks and lawn chairs, out of windows and restaurants, on balconies and roofs. Even workers three or four stories up on a construction site put down their hammers and offered a fist pump or two.
A fellow journalist asked me something before I left. The question was simple, the answer complex. Is Opening Day bigger than baseball? And I'll be the first to admit he threw me for a loop. Bigger than baseball, bigger than the Reds and whether Johnny Cueto would outduel Jered Weaver, whether the Cincinnati clan would finish in 2013 what it started in '12?
Yes. One hundred percent yes.
Opening Day is a holiday in the Queen City. And like any good holiday gathering, it brings the entire family together. A Great American Ball Park regular-season record family of 43,168, to be exact. There's a sort of oneness amongst the sea of red shirts and hats, a feeling of community. Because they were all in this together. It wasn't just the starting nine that went up against Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and the Angels.
They just happened to be the ones on the field.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.