By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Back, and Forth: Bring Santa down to earth, and other parade suggestions

A Jolly Rancher candy once hit me in the eye.

Cherry, I think it was.

I was watching a Fourth of July parade and an enthusiastic Boy Scout hurled the candy our direction. The kid had a great arm. I was not a jolly watcher.

I’ve seen my share of parades in 42 years of reporting overlapping with 30 years of parenthood, with a mix of memories, mostly good.

Memory of a 1988 parade in Dallas is among the funniest: a giant mouse character, lumbering toward a child who turned screaming from the six-foot rodent. That was before I had kids of my own, so I might have had a little more empathy … no, it was just plain funny.

I’ve photographed at least 100 or so and even walked in a couple of parades over the years.

The ones I’ve seen in McMinnville, the two Santa parades and September’s UFO Festival event, have been enjoyable displays. Even the rainy Nov. 24 parade, which turned out to be the largest holiday parade on record. And the crowd coming out to view the parade, and following tree-lighting ceremony, was impressive.

The use of umbrellas as décor and dance props were highlights last week, and many parade viewers held umbrellas, including yours truly. The fact that virtually no one riding in the parade used umbrellas to keep dry was a quintessential Mac phenomenon. The spirit that so many local residents brought to the drizzly procession (including four — 4 — dressed as The Grinch) was what made the parade special.

Yet a few quibbles may be in order, at the risk of appearing to descend on Whoville with a bag full of gripes.

I was just a spectator, making a more-or-less gametime decision to see the parade. I was not in on the organizing. I did not volunteer to help. (Probably a good thing, because it was a well-run parade.) That said, a few random thoughts:

- Candy was thrown, but in a haphazard way. Much of it turned to litter, and that’s a shame. It’s probably futile to suggest a “no-candy rule,” having seen that flouted in other places. But some kind of restrictions are worth a look.

Also tossed were ice scrapers and — a first — tubes of lip balm. But it’s slightly weird and a little disheartening to see these products tossed toward the curb and land in sodden leaves or a two-inch puddle. Most folks giving out fliers or goods bothered to approach people and hand them the offering, but a fair amount of stuff, well, no way to put it other than It Just Got Flung.

Tossing items is rarely a good idea — and, yes, I once was hit in the eye with a hard candy so I admit to being biased — but there is something joyous about making a personal connection and hand-delivering an item, as so many did, and hearing a word of thanks, as almost as many seemed to do.

- Ask participants to employ signs. Most groups do, or their uniforms or truck or car insignia identify them. But many parade entries, including some brightly-lit and carefully decorated ones, bore no identification. Who are these folks braving the rain to bring a ray of sunshine to our lives?

- Put an antique car or two between the two loudest entrants in the parade. Some kind of space. In this case, one entry with amplified live music directly preceded one with recorded music, both played at high volume, drowning each other out.

- Here’s one for spectators: say “thank you!” or “Merry Christmas.” Most folks stand silently, a few wave, some people make a point of acknowledging the parade participants. Whether it’s a cold November night or a sunny day in May, this can be hard work. Let those turning out know you care about what’s going past.

- In closing, I will commit minor heresy by suggesting Santa and Mrs. Claus NOT ride in the fire ladder truck. I gather it is tradition, but it has drawbacks. For one thing, the special guests are 15 feet up, and the young children who benefit most from seeing Santa (many for the first time) are as low as strollers two feet off the ground. Can they even see Mr. and Mrs. Claus? Compromise by having Mr. and Mrs. Claus sit in the ladder truck for the tree-lighting ceremony.

Putting them in a street-level vehicle for the parade also avoids the rather comical scene witnessed on Third near Ford when spectators looked down the street and saw the fire truck coming — but no sign of the chief elves. The fire truck was passing under a still-foliated maple but no one could be seen up in the bucket as it became surrounded by branches. Anticipation was high. Once the truck was out from under the tree, Mr. and Mrs. Claus slowly stood and resumed waving. And many of us applauded. I figure they must have had to do that a half-dozen times going down Third.

Bring Santa down to earth. What’s the point of having the big guy riding in the parade if you can’t see the twinkle in his eye? (And rain in his beard.)

Kirby Neumann-Rea, the N-R’s managing editor, enjoys books, craft beer, Celtic music and basketball. He can be reached at



Web Design and Web Development by Buildable