The bulky white jacket I am wearing over multiple layers of clothing in this photo has the words "Event Staff" on the back, but it really should say "Parade Princess."
I much prefer this term to "Coordinator" of the City of Portsmouth Holiday Parade, which means I have been in charge of this seasonal venture for four consecutive years now. Besides, "Parade Princess" sounds so much better than "The Grinch," which is what some of the local cops were calling me last night.
There was a point where I nearly told one of them, "You may carry a gun, but I have a clipboard so please call the $#@% tow truck and get these cars hauled outta here." By waving my clipboard as a wand, I did succeed in getting five vehicles ticketed and hauled away for violating the "no parking after 4 p.m." notice near the downtown reviewing stand. Ho Ho Ho.
I lost count at the number of illegal vendors I urged the police to eject, along with their cheap balloons and crappy light sticks, but it was at least six. Nothing says Christmas like "you're outta here." Ho ho ho.
Then there were the problems with floats. We are extremely strict about safety following a terrible tragedy in the 2006 parade when a 9-year-old Cub Scout fell off a float and was fatally injured by the float trailer's wheels. Since then, the City has retaken control of parade planning and banned "outrigger" wheels --those extending beyond the footprint the float. This is clearly stated on the application, at a mandatory safety meeting and in every other way possible -- but there are always issues.
This year, one of the complications involved trying to explain the requirements to the NH Association for the Blind. After several attempts by the sighted person building the float were rejected, we convinced them to use a piece of plywood to extend the float platform over the wheels. But when the apparatus arrived at "Float World," the police officer conducting the safety check discovered adding the platform also eliminated the safety railings needed when children ride on floats.
His solution? Require that the child be strapped to the fake lighthouse, as you can see in the photo. But it worked and the float could participate! Ho ho ho.
Lest you think that we lack Holiday Heart, the announcer and I (shown here) were part of a romantic gesture last night. As we were awaiting the start of the parade, a young man climbed the stairs to the "Reviewing Stand," which is actually a flatbed trailer brought in for the event. Before I could sternly order him to leave, he sheepishly asked if he could borrow our microphone because he wanted to propose to his girlfriend. The guy pulled out a diamond ring to prove he wasn't joking and we readily handed over the portable mike. (It should be noted here that I would NEVER surrender my clipboard.) He marched into the middle of the downtown square in front of the Reviewing Stand, requested over the public address system that his girlfriend join him, got down on one knee and proposed. She burst into tears but nodded "yes," which was a good thing because he planned to make her walk home if she said no.
Other than some of the issues mentioned earlier -- plus a lost $1,000 check, two bands waylaid en route to staging locations, a confused trolley driver, having to tell religious groups that giving away free cocoa could violate our food safety codes, the Seacoast Mothers group cancelling at the last minute and four more fire trucks than expected showing up from area towns to accompany Santa Claus (changes that wreak havoc with my carefully prepared narrative for the announcer to read) -- the parade was a success. There were easily 8,000 people along the route and the weather was a balmy 30 degrees (although I was prepared for far worse with another coat, long underwear, fleece socks, shirt and gloves, etc., under my lovely white Event Staff jacket).
This year's theme was "A Nautical Christmas" because Portsmouth is the official host community for the USS Virginia nuclear sub undergoing work at the nearby Naval Shipyard, but they almost didn't get to pull a 21-foot-long sub replica behind a truck accompanying the officers and crew marching in the parade. You guessed it -- the trailer had outrigger wheels, which we only learned a few days ago. But because the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is the nation's most efficient, workers there quickly welded on a steel "skirt" to make it legal. Ho Ho Ho.
The nautical theme resulted in a variety of offerings, but one of the favorites was this "clipper ship" with a working hot tub that had swimsuit-clad "Santa Babies" in it. Although I warned this year's judge that no extra points were to be awarded for bikinis in December, he still chose this float as Best Commercial Entry. But since the creators were clever in using lights and integrating a hot tub into their theme, it was hard to get too mad about it.
Maybe I've mellowed since the last time I blogged about my Holiday Parade chores (click here to read that entry). Or perhaps it's just that there's only so much a Princess can do. Maybe next year I should go for Queen.