By Heather Stuart and Erin Ward
The Rocket Festival is a tradition in North East Thailand to welcome the rainy season. It is a two day event event which consists of a parade and a rocket launching contest. Westminster has participated in this event since we have been coming to Thailand, and now they schedule the parade around our arrival. We get to participate in two different aspects of the parade: some of us get to be rice farmers, while others get to dress up as royalty and ride on floats. Heather will explain her experience from the farmer perspective while Erin explains it from the royalty perspective. Being a rice farmer was a great form of cultural immersion and allowed us to interact with many of the locals. We wore traditional rice farmer clothing . It was a denim out fit with baggy capri length pants and a colorful sash that we wore around our waste. We learned a little dance and a lot of the local women would come and correct me on my dancing skills. Although it was super hot outside, it wasn’t to bad walking in the parade because there were also some women walking around and splashing cold water on us. I’ve been a part of 6 different Fourth of July parades but none of them have ever been quite that fun and exciting. It was amazing how involved all the locals were and how much fun we all had. My favorite part of the parade was all the people. All sorts of people turned up at the parade: young and old, and some people who were really enjoying their drink. People would come off the streets to dance and take pictures with me and I just loved how welcomed I felt. It wasn’t hard to tell how important the parade was to some of the people and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of their tradition.
Being a princess in the rocket festival parade was a wonderful experience. The festival requested two queens, two kings, five princesses, and a mahout driver (which means elephant driver). Brooke and Ellie were our queens, Toby and Kendall were our kings, Meagan, Elise, Morgan, Libby, and I were the princesses, and Han was our elephant driver. We were in hair and makeup for the whole morning and the greater part of the afternoon. We got the full treatment: blush, foundation, hair spray, bright lipstick, and fake eyelashes. Even the guys got a makeover, which was very entertaining for everyone involved. Next came costumes and jewelry. Everyone got to wear an elaborate crown, which made us appreciate the full meaning of “heavy is the head that wears the crown”. They did make us have great posture, however, and appreciate how low the door clearance is in Thailand. After we were all made up we got to board our floats. One set of kings and queens rode an elephant (with Han), one set rode a horse, and the princesses rode their own float. We smiled and waved at all of the people, while they took pictures and reached up to touch our hands. It was touching to know how important this festival is to the people here, and that they let us be such a big part of their celebration. We got front row seats at the performance after the parade, and took even MORE pictures with all the locals. Overall, it was a wonderful experience for both the royalty as well as the farmers. The welcome that we received was amazing and unlike anything i have ever encountered in the United States. It is not hard to realize that being in the parade was a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us here with Westminster College. We all now have our rice farmer had