July 1, 2011
On Parade Floating through 4th of July logistics
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It’s the early curb sitter getting the best seat on the route this year. The parade themed, “America Honors the Spirit of Freedom,” is starting a half hour earlier to avoid rolling into the hottest part of the day. The number of entries has also changed in recent years, but the parade route is steadfast—Idaho Falls high school, through Boulevard neighborhoods to Tautphaus Park. Some move in because of it, while others move out. Now the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce wants to know what other curb you’re willing to sit on because the traditional route won’t float much more parade traffic.
Kris Millgate sits down with Robb Chiles, Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce President and CEO to discuss the routing challenges and floating triumphs of being on parade.
How do you come up with the parade theme? “We ask individuals in the community to submit themes and then we submit them to the parade committee. It looks at them and then gives a few ideas to the Chamber board of directors and the board picks the one it likes.”
Who is the Grand Marshal for the parade this year? “It’s a group of people. Our Grand Marshals are service members from the military and also local people who protect us, like firefighters and policeman.”
Why did the Chamber choose a group as the Grand Marshal instead of an individual? “We just think it’s important to recognize these folks and let them know we’re supportive of what they’re doing. That’s the military aspect and also you can’t ever thank the local folks enough. They’re out there for us every day and we want to make sure we recognize them in any possible way that we can. Anytime they are recognized it gets in their heart a little bit because they do a lot for us and to be recognized like this makes them feel special.”
What are the challenges with a group Grand Marshal? “Some of the challenges are making sure they’re all represented at the parade and making sure you have a big enough float to get them all on there.”
Why did the number of entries decrease?
“We used to have something like 300 entries in the parade and that included anyone, even the boy on a bike, and it didn’t end until after noon. Four or five years ago we tightened it up a bit and put rules and regulations in place for putting together a nice float. We try to encourage religious groups, businesses and individuals to be in the parade, but they need to put together some sort of float to do that.”
How overwhelming is it to put together a parade? “It’s quit a feat. There are a lot of folks who help put this parade on. We’ve brought [the entries] down from 300 to 115 floats, but still coordinating all of those entries is a challenge. You have to put together a lineup and no matter how much preparation you put into it, there always seems to be a large gap because entries stop along the route and we have to try to figure out how to manage the stops and starts.”
‘Celebrate!’, published by Harris Publishing, has a survey in it. Why are
you inserting a parade survey?
“This parade is on a wonderful route, but we have to really start thinking about how we’re going to manage in the future. More than 50 thousand people stacked 15 people deep line the route.
Half of the people on Boulevard are ecstatic about the parade. They love it. They think it’s the greatest thing in the world. It’s the reason some of them buy a house on Boulevard. The other half are just angry and don’t want anything to do with the parade because people come and camp out in their yard, leave garbage all over the place and break sprinkler heads. I had a woman call me one year and say, ‘I walked out of my bathroom [on the morning of the parade] and there was a lady standing in my kitchen heating milk in my microwave saying, “I didn’t think you would care if I had to warm up some milk for my daughter.”’ So there are some issues we have to deal with as far as the route goes.
“Inserting a survey about changing the route is going to open a can of worms, but I’d rather get the public’s input about the route change before we send it to the board. It’s a tall order to change something that’s been a part of Idaho history for what seems like forever.”
Why is there resistance to changing the parade route? “Most parades are down main streets that don’t provide the nostalgic looks that ours provides with the trees through the neighborhood. That’s what separates our parade from other parades is that home town feeling.”
Does the Chamber make money with this parade? “The parade has never been a revenue-generating thing, even with entry fees. We actually spend $5,000 to $6,000 to put this thing on. There’s clean up, port-a-potties, trophies and time just to name a few expenses. It’s a pretty costly event, but it’s for the community. To be able to get the community out and get them together with family creates a community sense of pride and we’ll spend any amount of money to be able to continue that.”
Millgate is a freelance writer based in
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