Monday, November 22, 2010

Behind The Scenes

Saturday marked the date of the 84th Annual Milwaukee "Holiday" Parade. Growing up this was always a big deal for my family. My dad would pack us up and we'd head downtown to stake our claim and watch the parade. It fizzed out for a while and picked up again when I started taking my kids. Other family members would join us and the group grew as the years went by. We missed a few due to cold weather but for the most part sucked it up and dealt with the weather.
Two years ago Ben & Nannette began to participate in the parade through her work place. We were asked if we'd care to join in this year. We were to hold the Toy Soldier balloon. When telling the rest of the family we got mixed reactions. Apparently they don't actually enjoy sitting in the cold. Bunch of spoil sports.
We then decided to join Ben & Nannette along with other friends to see the other side of the parade. The prep began in the wee hours of the morning when my alarm went off at 5:30 am. I figured I could handle being a little cold and decided to ditch the winter jacket idea and go with layers. We met in the lobby of her workplace and were given Santa hats, some directions and a warm bus ride down to the lakefront. At this point assistance was needed in preparing the balloons. We were provided with hot chocolate, coffee and Krispy Kremes and more directions. The woman coordinating threw out some helpful hints to those of us that would be handing out freebies to the parade watchers. She mentioned several times that we would be swarmed and that the adults were worse than the kids. "Don't give everything out in the beginning of the parade, pace yourselves so you have enough left at the end also, and last but not least, do not throw the items toward the crowd" They didn't want kids running into the street to retrieve the items. We were also warned about poop and to keep an eye on the road ahead of us to avoid stepping in it.
The wait began. We were to be in slot numbers 69 & 70. We could hear the bands warming up and could watch the crowd beginning to form. Our waiting spot was close to the actual beginning of the parade so we had a good view . A few minutes before the parade begins they have the bus brigade. I think there were around 70 school bus's used to transport the parade participants. Our bus driver seemed to be busy drinking coffee and wound up running toward her bus to fall in line.
As a crowd member this was always a good time. The kids would see the bus's coming and know that the parade would begin shortly. This always brought cheers from the crowd. The only thing that brought more cheers was the street sweeper and Santa.
Then came the police escort and the banner marking the 84th Annual Holiday Parade. The Homestead Band was then next. We knew we were somewhere after Ronald McDonald and began to get lined up and ready to go. Some of the girls decided to carry the beads on their arms and were once again warned about the swarming crowd. And then it was showtime...
Off we went following our balloon. I was carrying a Journal bag with rulers, little newspapers, coloring books and cookbooks. I was immediately swarmed with requests for beads. I was walking along handing out my "not too welcomed" rulers and thought I was keeping a good pace. Dodi was next to me with newspapers also. We looked ahead and found that we were quite a bit behind our balloon. Stepped it up a bit and caught up to our balloon holders. We looked back and saw the bead girls being swarmed by the crowd. They were keeping a good pace to keep up with the van so they could restock. Our balloon holders were doing a great job but were having some difficulty with two people toward the front who didn't seem to want to work together with the others.
It was a different experience seeing things from the other side. There is a lot of work that goes into the parade and I was glad to be a little part of it. The best part of my experience was having my grandson run out and hand his grandpa and me a cup of hot chocolate. It's those little things in life that warm your heart. He got a few extra "not so fun" rulers for his thoughtfulness. His mom may have gotten an extra cookbook or two.
The coordinator was right. We were swarmed, the adults are worse than the kids, and people seem to have a thing about the beads. All I heard besides "thank you" was requests for beads. Because of the swarming I decided to toss out some rulers and was pretty good at getting them close to the curb. I did get a little warning for tossing. It was either that or walk along with people clung to my arm.
Turning the final corner the parade veers off to the west but the balloons head east. This is where they met up with most of the wind. Poor Nannette looked like she was going to be carried away, but she kept things under control. One short block and it was time to set the Soldier down and begin to deflate him. Turned in my empty journal bag and our work was done.
To sum it up, it was a good time, I wasn't cold at all after walking, I made it through without stepping in any poop and I had a good time.

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