Getting the most out of your Christmas Parade family experience or Christmas Parade 101 for Families
That time of year is upon us: the towns and cities have decorated their main streets and town squares, filling them with tinsel and colorful fairy lights. We were lucky to have experienced the recent Light Up Ocala Festival, the inauguration of the Christmas season’s festivities for the Florida city of Ocala. You can read about that here. And now the Christmas parades are schedule to roll through those decorated towns. If you have never been to one, you should check one out (or two or three), and with some planning and fore-knowledge, it can be a family experience to remember.
We have been either in Christmas parades or attending them since the kids were small. The towns march their local school clubs, bands, even football teams, through the streets, along with floats created by different local companies and clubs. Usually there is a theme to the floats, like “Small Town Christmas” or even “Out of This World Christmas” and the floats compete for the best of the parade. The school bands and baton twirlers use this opportunity to showcase their talent. Keep in mind, even if you see the odd slip up- that these kids (and adults) have spent hours practicing for this one event.
IF YOU ARE IN THE CHRISTMAS PARADE:
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Have someone drop you off.
- Make sure you have pre-arranged for someone to pick you up at the other end (Parades are always one way). This is a big issue. In our small town, the city began providing a bus run back to where the cars were parked at parade field. But before that, we had to beg lifts or leave cars at both ends.
- Dress appropriately, for your club/float/group. They will tell you what to wear before hand.
- Get to the appointed meeting place (parade field) early! Traffic and parking are a madhouse. They close the main roads for the parades too. Get there early!
- Make sure you and the kids have your bathroom/drink breaks BEFORE the parade begins, because there is no stops along the way!
- Be prepared to smile, wave, pass out candy/toys (if your group is doing that) and sing. This is a joyous occasion and you are the show! Remember you are “on stage” during the entire parade.
- Have fun. That is what this is all about!
IF YOU ARE ATTENDING THE CHRISTMAS PARADE:
- Arrange to meet up with friends– the more the merrier.
- Bring snacks/drinks. Make it a street party! I’ve even seen groups with pizzas and foot-long sandwiches. We usually bring chips and sometimes there are vendors selling popcorn and drinks.
- Bring your own chairs– or a blanket to sit on. There’s nothing worse than a cold, wet bottom! And as you are usually sitting on the grass by the street curb, that’s where locals take their dogs to do their business. Good for the dogs, but bad for you!- ugh!
- Arrive early. While you don’t have to arrive as early as the parade participants, remember, they WILL close off the road. Ensure your space on the sidewalk, and a good parking space at that and plan to arrive 1 hour early for small town parades. Longer for the larger city parades. Some people plant their chairs on their “space” early in the day for the bigger city events, so I have been told.
- Find out where the nearest bathroom is located. They will not let you cross the street during the parade, so have the kids use it before hand.
- Wear comfortable clothes & shoes. And dress for the weather. A couple of hours outside can get chilly.
- Sometimes the parade participants pass out candy or toys. Don’t let your kids run into the street to fetch any of these. Parade float drivers are concerned enough with the people on their floats, don’t add to their tension. Keep your kids safe.
- Have fun. That’s why you came, right? Take pics, hang with friends and make memories.
Have a great weekend!