If you didn’t get to see Clayton’s Christmas parade yesterday, well, you missed a golden opportunity to enjoy yourself and really get into the Christmas spirit.
What most of us don’t know, is just how much work goes in to putting on a parade like the ones that took place last weekend.
About 20 years ago, when I lived in Virginia, the little town where I lived put on a parade. The lady who organized it each year had done so for something like 1,356,528 years or something like that. I volunteered to help her in 1992. By 1993, she had retired from the parade business and I found myself in charge of putting on that town’s annual Heritage Day parade.
I called up the Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, since our town was so steeped in farming, to ask if he would be our grand marshal, and sure enough, he drove two hours from Richmond that day to be in our parade.
That turned out to be the easy part. For several weeks before the parade, I took phone calls from groups wanting to be in the parade. I had been warned that some groups would just show up the morning of the parade and expect to be assigned a spot.
Assigning parade entries is no easy matter. You can’t put two bands next to each other. Horses couldn’t be near the front of the parade because, well, they poop. Trust me, in 1993, there weren’t a couple people walking behind the horses to clean up any messes. And, it just wouldn’t do to have a precision marching band rolling down Main Street behind an active horse.
Some floats had their own music and they wanted to be put away from other noise-making entries.
Headache though it was, we put together a lineup that worked just right, until parade morning when a nearby fire department, showed up unannounced to be in the parade.
I put them behind the horses.
And, lest you think that was the toughest thing to do, our town wasn’t blessed with a car dealership, so I convinced my entire office staff to go with me 30 miles to a dealership in South Boston the night before the parade to pick up four sports cars for carrying the dignitaries.
We spent much of the night before the parade making the signs to go on the sides of the cars announcing which dignitary was which, and marking the lineup area so parade participants would know where to go before things got started.
All told, it was a good two months of work. But when the police chief’s car rolled off from the starting line, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. That parade came together and everyone I talked to after, enjoyed what they saw.
So, if you see a chamber board member around Clayton any time soon, let ‘em know how much you appreciate their labor. It’s very invisible work that they do, but without their effort, I think something would be missing from the Christmas season.