Editorial: Christmas Parade Needs a Makeover
By Brandi Makuski
I’m loath to say it, but holiday cheer was heavily lacking in the 26th annual Christmas Parade.
That’s not to say there weren’t some truly enjoyable moments Friday night: SPASH and Pacelli marching bands were, as expected, fantastic. The cold weather, which was a likely culprit for this year’s thin attendance, did nothing (obvious) to stand in the way of an excellent performance from the city’s two high schools. Videos of both performances are available on the City-Times Facebook page.
In keeping with the time-honored tradition of creating a spectacle, one parade entry offered a brief dance- complete with costumes- throughout the parade route to the music of the popular Disney movie Frozen– one of the few to actually follow the parade’s theme- which delighted young paradegoers tremendously.
Clear front runners for “wow” factor included Fred’s Towing of Stevens Point and the Rotary Winter Wonderland entry from Marshfield; two organizations which clearly demonstrated they know how to rock a Christmas parade.
Annual parade staples like decorated fire trucks, a local cheer/dance team and clowns were festive and fun; new entries including the PABS five-man bicycle and unicyclists were a pleasant surprise and added some much-needed levity to the event.
But the parade included many disheartening moments, beginning with parade walkers who were handing out fliers for 199ride.com, a car dealer which specializes in financing buyers with poor credit. This entry was followed by a large group of people seemingly unassociated with any organization: this group of some 40 adults and children had no apparent direction or purpose other than to stand in the street, wave and give away candy. Indeed many other parade entries had so many walkers handing out items to attendees it was difficult to see the actual vehicle or holiday display they were associated with.
The order of the lineup was also a bit confusing. It was great to see a marching band so close to the beginning of the parade, but there were very long gaps of awkward silence between musical parade entries, and entries with music were often grouped consecutively, making it difficult to distinguish one song from another.
One head-scratching matchup put a local radio station vehicle playing Christmas music directly in front of a stomp troupe performing to hip-hop music so loud it cancelled out the tunes of its forerunner. The troupe, although quite talented, had no seeming connection to the holidays nor any identifying sign or banner and performed some dance moves which were borderline inappropriate for a family event.
Also disappointing this year was the lack of connection to the actual holiday season. More than half parade entries seemed to have nothing to offer paradegoers except a flier advertising an item for sale or upcoming event. Many in attendance were bombarded with fliers from parade walkers on the street as well as random strangers handing out coupons on the sidewalk.
And then there was this:
No one can deny the underlying capitalistic theme of Christmas, or any holiday for that matter. For some, Christmas is heavily religious; for others it’s far more commercial. But the running theme of our Christmas culture always included the merits of bringing joy to others, spending time with family and enjoying a good meal, and we typically try to be a little less obnoxious about our shameless commercialism. Unfortunately this year’s parade was in danger of becoming a walking coupon book.
Perhaps a better idea for future parades would be to enforce a few guidelines requiring a Christmas theme and limiting the number of walkers and handouts allowed. Perhaps the downtown businesses could conceive of a prize for the best parade entry, upping the ante for all who participate in the parade and better increasing public attendance, which in turn would bring in new shoppers to the downtown district. It’s a win-win.
A parade should be a visual delight, a spectacle. There ought to be an “awe” factor which transports the parade goer into a world of Christmas wonder, majesty and fantasy; all elements of the strong Germanic ancestry in Central Wisconsin, and all elements vital to the traditions of Christmas. And tradition is what keeps our communities together.