It's almost time to line the downtown streets to gaze at the Christmassy creations built by area businesses. That's right; it's nearly parade time!! The Whitecourt and District Chamber of Commerce is looking for another fantastic turnout and hopes to see many businesses and organizations join in on the fun.
"One of the largest turnouts there ever was happened in 2019. It was noticeable how significant the crowd was, and I think that was also the highest number of floats registered," said Dana Severson, executive director of the Whitecourt Chamber. She said that year was the first time they used the extended parade route through downtown Whitecourt. "I think we had the first float coming back to the start point as the last float was heading out. It was a full parade that year."
She said that the more businesses and groups that join the parade, the bigger the crowds seem to get. "The more businesses that are involved with it, the more their employees and families and friends want to come down and support them and see what they've put together. I think there's a definite correlation between the number of businesses that are registered for the parade and the number of people that turn out to see it."
Severson said that nearly anything goes for creating a float, be it big or small. "You can bring a sense of humour or nostalgia. There's no set theme for the parade other than a somewhat obvious overarching Christmas theme. You can really get creative. Whether you showcase equipment that you have available that would relate to the services you can provide or bring on clients and kids to involve your client base. It's a great way to show off what employees are capable of doing. It's also a great way for different groups and organizations to show the involvement of their members to the community in how enthusiastic or interesting their groups are. It's eye-grabbing and attention-grabbing."
She said that there isn't anything better than packed streets staring at a slow-moving sign as far as an advertisement for a company or organization. "Your message isn't whizzing by quickly. It's going at a very slow pace, so people take the time to look at see what's going on, and the louder, and brighter and more interactive it is, it's unbelievable the amount of attention you can get and how memorable it is." She said that the ideas are endless. "We're an industrial town, and we are proud of that, and we embrace it. Everybody loves to show off their rigs and toys and their equipment. It's a way for the public to get up close and within eyesight of the pieces of machinery or equipment that you don't get to experience if you're not on a job site or working with them daily."
The parade always features a wide array of float ideas, from pull behinds to in-your-face equipment driving along the route. "We have everything from massive pieces of equipment to people walking in a group with a poster or a banner that explains who they are. It can be very simple and still be very impactful if you are thinking outside the box and putting those skills to use."
Those who join can also give out treats and goodies, but there are some rules in place. One rule is no throwing from the floats. "Anything that is handed out is to be placed down near the curb for participants to pick up themselves easily. There's no actual hand-to-hand transition of things or throwing of things." Severson said that items would be wrapped due to the snowy ground. "It's an excellent way to give out things that have your business information on it or just a plethora of candy canes and treats for folks to enjoy. There are even companies that give out bags so that the spectators have something to put their treats into. There's a whole lot of options there."
Over the years, there have been lots of fan favourites. "There was a dancing gingerbread man from Remax one year, and that was a big hit. It had some wicked moves," chuckled Severson. "New Venture Safety Services had a working, flaming oil derrick, and that was cool to look at. It was also a reference to the National Lampoon Christmas, which went over very well with all the industrial patrons in our region." Of course, the absolute favourite part of the parade comes at the end as Santa Claus makes his appearance.
Severson encourages businesses to throw on their thinking caps and bring their employees together to develop a plan. November 30 is the date to have your registration in by, which is free to do. "A float can be as simple as a pickup truck with an inflatable in the back, or some lights and music and company signage somewhere clear and visible, all the way up to a big rig with generators, lights, sounds and characters with multiple employees on it. Either way, it will be enjoyable and impactful. Just make sure that everyone in the audience knows which business is with which float to get that return on investment for the time and effort."
The Whitecourt and District Chamber of Commerce's "I'm Dreaming of a Whitecourt Christmas" Parade takes place on Saturday, December 4, starting at 7 pm. Visit the Chamber's Facebook page to access the registration link and ask questions or visit www.whitecourtchamber.com.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press