How to Make a Truly Wonderful and Memorable Winter Holiday Parade Spectacle On a Not-for-Profit Community Group Budget
You don’t need a huge budget to put together a really wonderful parade spectacle. You just need a strategic plan. Here are a few hints from the Wonderland Spectacle Company, and if you need help, feel free to contact us:
Choose a Theme
That Lets Your Light Shine
Choose a theme that excites the senses, carries meaning for people, shares your organization’s message, and has a bigger idea for people to plug into with their own creativity. Examples of some fun themes could include:
Be Kind to All People
Its a Small World
Welcome! in Different Languages
Sharing is Caring
Love Your Neighbor
Non-religious Winter Themes:
Snowmen (or rather, Snowpeople)
Winter Woodland Animals
Star Constellations in Winter
Winter Snow Sports
The North Pole
Winter Birds in the Forest
Winter Camping or Ice Fishing
Themes from Specific Religions and Cultures:
Traditional Dance Teams from your country, ie Chinese Dragon Dancers
Folk traditions from your home religion or country, ie Krampus.
Quote from religious scripture
Host of Angels with Trumpets
Shepards and Sheep
Giant Menorahs or giant Dredel
Land of Misfit Toys
Cookies from Around the World
Snow Shovel Brigade (choreographed “drills” with snow shovels)
Team of Walking Christmas Trees
Song Inspired Themes:
Let it Snow
Frosty the Snowman
Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
Waltz of the Sugar Plum Fairies
The 12 Days of Christmas
The Wassail Song
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
Anderson’s The Snow Queen
Choose a Color and Key Image
Choose a color scheme and image informed by your theme: a color scheme will unify your spectacle and make it pop out from the street and ties everything together. An image is something for people to identify with: For example, for World Peace, you could choose the color blue and the image of white doves. Imagine people walking, all dressed in blue, holding a whole flock of white doves on sticks. And one big sign in the front saying “Peace on Earth” That would be simple but powerful, right?
Make it Easy and Fun to Join in!
Host a Workshop
Invite your membership to a workshop for making decorations, costumes or signs: Decide on the theme and color scheme ahead of time, plan what you are going to make, gather the materials in the specific color scheme you’ve chosen, and then invite people to help you construct the components you designed.
These could include paper cut outs on bamboo sticks, simple hats, sashes, masks, hand-made banners, signs with slogans or quotes on them, giant candy canes, etc.
Making lots of the same thing with personal variations looks good.
If you put up a simple photo booth, participants can share the photos of the flair they made on social media to help recruit marchers.
If someone brings snacks and music, you have yourself a fun holiday party!
Give easy instructions for your theme or color scheme, like “Wear Red” or “Santa Hats” or “Glam silver and gold” or “Peppermint stripes.” The more people match, the more they will look like part of a greater whole and not just random people standing at a bus stop. Think about how to get people to dress warm, mittens and hats and layers, with comfortable walking shoes, AND with the theme. Tricky but possible! also, things do not have to be complicated or expensive. If you wanted a host of angels, just ask everyone to dress in all white, and then at the parade, hand out the sparkle halos. To help you recruit as many people as possible, make fliers with details of where and when to show up, and where and when you need help. Use social media, but also ask people in person if they want to march with you.
Charm Crowds and Amplify your Message with Strategic Technical Choices:
Consider marching on foot instead of a flat bed truck: Why?
- When its REALLY COLD, the last thing you want to do is sit outdoors on a flatbed truck for 2 or 3 hours. If you are walking in comfortable shoes or boots, your body is moving and this keeps you MUCH WARMER than sitting still.
- An idling diesel truck makes lots of air pollution and sound pollution for participants and spectators. Its REALLY boring to look at a flat bed truck, and its even more boring to look at a handful of kids sitting looking bored and hunched over, shivering with cold on a flatbed truck. Conversely, if you are a walking parade team, your team can dance to music, march in a circle at points when the parade slows down to keep up momentum, warmth and interest for the spectators. Also, kids can decorate and ride scooters or bikes. Consider decorating a child’s wagon to pull your snack, drinks or tired children along with you instead of an exhaust-spewing truck or van.
- Smart politicians walk in parades. They wave, shake hands, and show they are one with the people. This is a powerful move of connectedness, and it will work for you, too.
- If you are going to do a float on a truck, then go all in. You will need to be prepared to create 3-D Sculptures and textures to cover the entire surface. This is a big, time consuming project and you will need to dispose of it or break it down and store it after. Getting a truck by itself does not solve your problem of having a spectacle. A little tinsel or a few bows is not going to do the trick of creating a transformative visual experience for a truck. If you think getting a truck is all you have time to do, you could just skip it, and put your time into being creative with people instead: Imagine if you used that same amount of tinsel and bows on people walking! If everyone wore a tinsel garland for a scarf, and they each wore a big bow on their hats, then that would look a lot more festive than a truck!
Consider live music. Blaring pop music out of speakers is not really special and doesn’t create that magical sense of place and real moment that live music does. A good parade should include a few marching bands, so ask the parade line up organizer to plan for your group to walk in front of them, it keeps your spirits up when marching. If you really need your own music, it is better to teach everyone to sing a song or two that matches your theme, or to ring bells, play kazoos, or recruit live musicians that match your theme to walk with you and play. Be creative!
Make the Day Sparkle
Assign one of your members to be your group’s parade marshall and make sure they take the opportunity to coach your group when you gather about walking together in a tight bunch. If you are too spread out, it lessens the effect of all your decorations and costumes.
Also, your group’s parade marshall will want to coach your group about having your main sign/banner in front, and making sure everyone else walks behind it. Leave at least 20 feet of space between your group and the group in front of you, or else no one will see your sign and they won’t know who you are and why you are marching! Make sure the people holding the sign are dressed festively (or at the very least wearing a festive hat) and good at leading or at least good at following directions. Remind children to wave and smile at all the babies in strollers and all the grandmas and grandpas who came out to see you all. Take lots of pictures of your group while marching with the sign in front, and share the best one on social media. Then thank everyone publicly who helped out.
Still Need Help Getting Started?
Hire Local Experts
Wonderland Spectacle Company would be happy to help you brainstorm, design, schedule and plan your spectacle. You will get the best results from us if you contact us at least two or three months in advance of the parade. We have a range of consulting and workshop options to suit you budget, and we’d love to help get you started!