The ins and outs of creating a parade
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, the Little Drummer Boy and, yes, even the Grinch might be some of the characters to ride into town for Aiken Jaycees Cartoon Christmas Parade on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Southern Thunder Cloggers, Salvation Army of Aiken, Christ Central, Windsor Fire Department, Palmetto Kiwanis Club of Aiken, Aiken School of Cosmetology, Smith-Hazel and Family Pharmacy will be only a handful of the groups to see this year, according to Carey Sarka, parade organizer and Jaycees' president.
Children dressed as Winnie the Pooh and Scooby Doo and wearing Santa hats will be beside and on Salvation Army's truck this year, Capt. Angela Repass, the director, said.
Magnets representing businesses that have donated $250 or more to the army's Christmas assistance program this year will scatter the truck. The truck itself was even donated by Triangle Dodge, Repass said.
“We drive it around town all during this time of year,” she said.
In addition to the magnets, the army's signature red donation-collecting kettle, bows, candy cane decor and garland will help liven up the truck.
And, of course, “children to look cute,” Repass said.
Ways the organization has decorated in the past include the kids dressing up as animals last year and many, large presents and a Christmas tree being in a flatbed a couple years prior.
Snoopy as the Red Baron will guide the Peanuts-themed Palmetto Kiwanis Club's part of the parade, according to Angela Boyette, club president. Chukker Creek Elementary School K-Kids Club members will appear on the float with the Kiwanis Club members.
Once the Kiwanis envision the float from paper to reality, assignments are divvied up.
“We have some talented members good with woodworking,” Boyette said. “We use the basic structure (from years past) and build on it for different themes … We are proud of each.”
This year, the truck pulling a trailer will be plastered with panels featuring Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang. Past floats of the club's include Santa's Workshop with his elves and Dr. Seuss with the Grinch and a “crazy,” as Boyette put it, Christmas tree.
The club has won twice in the Graniteville Christmas Parade and has appeared in the Wagener Parade.
What is a parade without its bands, and this year, Aiken High School, South Aiken High School and AAA Home School will return to march the streets.
“They do a fabulous job,” Sarka said. “I look forward to them every year.”
Aiken High School band will entertain paradegoers with its “Angels on Parade” song medley this year, Ryan Westberry, band director, said.
“We are always excited to have the opportunity to support our community,” he said.
This year as always, the school has been and will be busy performing. For example, they were part of Windsor's parade on Dec. 1 and will perform for Aiken Regional Medical Centers' “Christmas by the Lake” on Dec. 13.
Of course, you don't have to represent a school or business to come out and participate.
For local Raymond Scott Jr. building floats was a source of family joy and bonding.
“My father, Raymond Scott, he started building floats in the 90s, and after he past, my cousin Thomas Scott wanted to keep it going,” Scott said. “So the family worked every year to build them.”
With a bit of imagination, a handful of cash and a lot of heart, creating floats can be a delightful experience, according to Scott.
While they will not appear in this year's parade, in the past the Scotts have came up with their own Santa's Workshop, Santa's Land, Winter Wonderland and Smokey Mountain Christmas.
“The floats that meant the most were Santa's Workshop dedicated to my Dad and Smokey Mountain Christmas that was dedicated to my mom, Nancy Scott,” Scott said “All the floats have meant a lot for me and the family, but those two just stand out.”
Scott teaches several classes at the Aiken County Career and Technology Center, and the family will not appear in the parade this year.
The Aiken Jaycees will have a float contest again this year with the categories religious, school and other. The entries will compete to win the first and second places.
Key things the judges look for are creativity, application of theme and representation of category.
“Do the people really use the theme,” Sarka said, “Are they in the holiday spirit? Sometimes a float can be minimally decorated, but the spirit of the person gets them the overall winner.”
Some ideas to really decorate a float are to have people dress up, use music and/or lighting and dig for different, rare cartoon characters, Sarka said.
Also, no one dressed as Santa Claus; he has his own spot.
“We don't want to confuse the children,” Sarka said.
The themes have only been a recent addition to the parade; a couple of the past themes include American Christmas and Country Christmas.
There are a few things to remember when attending the parade. Don't expect to be getting candy and literature from the parade participants; it's against city ordinance to throw the items into the crowd. Parade participants are unable to sell anything from their floats in the parade zone or during parade, as well as paradegoers cannot sell anything in the city streets or sidewalks unless they obtain business licenses from the director of Public Safety Charles Barranco. Something that will not be accepted this year are people jumping off or onto floats; doing this will cause the float to be removed from the parade. For more information, visit the City of Aiken or the Aiken Jaycees website.
The parade area must be reserved no less than three weeks beforehand, according to a city ordinance. Sarka and her team jumped on the process earlier this year.
This Christmas staple has been a part of the city since at least the 70s, Sarka believes, and such history has followed with the parade.
In 2010, the city celebrated its 175th birthday by creating a time capsule full of 2010 Aiken Standard, USC Aiken and Aiken Regional Medical Centers new clips, birthday celebration video and photos and student predications of the year 2035. The capsule-burying ceremony followed the parade at the Newberry Street festival site.
All those participating this year will receive their information by email on Thursday evening, Sarka said; the registration form on the Jaycee's website contains further information.
For more information, call and leave a message at 644-3008, and someone will return the call within the next day.
Stephanie Turner is a feature reporter with the Aiken Standard. She is a graduate of Valdosta (Ga.) State University.