Editorial: Christmas Parade Mix of Thrills, Cheer and… Confusion
Left, a float from Marshfield Rotary highlighting the Winter Wonderland in Wildwood Park in Wood County. It was the brightest float in the Stevens Point parade. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
Kudos this year to city leaders and parade organizers for keeping a prompt timeline for the 25th Annual Downtown Christmas Parade. Thousands turned out for the event, which is designed to kick off the local holiday shopping season. Mayor Andrew Halverson called hundreds of kids into the street to help him countdown to the official downtown/city Christmas tree lighting promptly at 6 PM, and unlike previous years the parade Friday night began at the advertised 6:15.
This year’s parade was the most memorable in recent history for several reasons. Last year, the Amherst High School was still high from it’s championship football victory so their marching band was a very tough act to follow. This year, SPASH, Pacelli and Amherst marching bands were all fantastic.
While not quite a float and more a van outfitted with a flame burner, Hot Air Balloon Tours was one of the biggest thrills of the night for all ages. Flames rose close to 20 feet in the air amidst much cheering and awe from little ones watching along the sidelines. It embodied the element of spectacle parades were once famous for.
It’s amazing that Hot Air Balloon Tours obtained permission from parade organizers to spray fire in the air, particularly considering the parade route goes right through a historic district surrounded by thousands of parade goers- not to mention more than a few dozen trees along Main Street and a combined several thousand gallons of gasoline in the parked cars in the area. The man controlling the fire spray seemed to know what he was doing, sure, but there were no visible signs of safety measures taken.
One might think instead of staging all six or seven fire vehicles at the beginning of the parade, one fire engine might have been held back to ride behind this vehicle…even if just for the appearance of safety.
The best float of the evening was, in this reporter’s opinion, from Marshfield Rotary Club, which was highlighting its Winter Wonderland in Wood County. It was a beautiful, well-lit float, very reminiscent of the flare and spectacle (rather than candy- throwing) which was once associated with parades, and how I wish that accolade could have been given to a Stevens Point float entry. But there’s always next year.
The most curious, if not awkward, moment of the evening was a parade entry from First Choice Pregnancy Resource Center. After a quick Internet search I discovered their office is located in a strip mall in northern Stevens Point and they provide various family planning services. I imagine their presence in the parade was intended as an avenue of advertising rather than a social or religious statement, but it also goes to show- anything goes in the Christmas parade.
Once noticed, the vehicle’s presence changed the mood from cheery to confused- and outright angry- rather quickly. Some parents began exchanging confused looks. Some were vocally upset- perhaps not at the presence of the vehicle itself, but rather the youngsters walking along side who were associated with it- young girls dressed as wrapped Christmas presents with signs reading “Family Planning Services” and “Post- Abortion Health Services” tapes to themselves.
I don’t want to start a pro-life/pro-choice debate, but this was ridiculous. I have a hard time finding that appropriate in a Christmas parade. I couldn’t help but wonder how many parents were faced with uncomfortable questions from their own children inquiring as to what an abortion is.
To make matters even more awkward, the vehicle behind it was that of 88.5 FM “The Family” Christian radio station.
And I’m not kidding.