BURSTING WITH PRIDE & LET YOUR SMILE BE YOUR UMBRELLA ON A RAINY RAINY DAY!
Everyone needs an umbrella and a popular song reminds us all that we have a smile that can serve as an umbrella on a rainy rainy day! Raining on parades is a metaphor and something that happens in real life! Coming from Baraboo, WI, the home of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus and the world-famous Circus World Museum, every day was a parade of one type or another. Our tap-dancing family was always enlisted to join in and be part of most of these occasions – my father, Tony, could get anyone anywhere to join in the event. From girl scouts, boy scouts, marching bands, baton twirlers, flag bearers, veterans and retirees - everyone was in the parade and the entire town came out to support these endeavors.
Summer is a time for parades and promotions of every shape and size. June is Pride Month in Chicago and it is a time to “Burst with Pride!’. Organization is the key and cooperation a must. My early parade organizing skills began as an assistant to my dad and one of his proudest moments was an attempt to start a Drum & Bugle Corps. He was Baraboo’s “Music Man”. Combine the grade and high schoolers with the authentic Circus Wagons and floats – clowns and elephants we had some pretty good parades. Our most daring parade appearance was on a bicycle built for 13. The custom-built bicycle was created by my dad and my brothers and it was ride-able but just not able to corner very well. We posed for photos and then rode out onto the city streets. We were a spectacle and fashionable in costumes and dresses sewn by our talented mother, Alberta.
Chicago was also a calling for parade appearances by our family. We first appeared in a Chicago Christmas Parade in the 1960's and tap-danced down State Street on a very snowy and rainy day. Next time bring the umbrella!
In my early days of teaching special events and public relations at Columbia College Chicago I was reconnected with the Chicago Christmas Parade organizers. Promoting my events class with volunteer participation made parades a great way to introduce my students to the special events business. Learning how to communicate, organize and be called on to avert an emergency became a quick entry into the world of special events. Many of my students became interns, part and full-time employees and volunteers for a lifetime at these parades and events.
In 1934, the idea for a Christmas parade in Chicago was pitched to then Mayor Edward Kelly by Walter Gregory, president of the – State Street Council (now Chicago Loop Alliance). During the Great Depression, people weren’t too happy or doing any shopping and Gregory hoped to bring some much- needed cheer and economic stimulation to the city.
In May of that year, a three-car Burlington Zephyr train was making the 1,000-mile, non-stop trek from Denver to Chicago at 112 miles per hour. On December 7, 1934, the Christmas Caravan train arrived in full fanfare and loaded with toys from State Street stores. According to news reports at that time, the spectacle worked as sales in the Loop saw the highest profits since pre-Depression days in 1927. Fast forward to 2019 and this year the parade now moved back to Thanksgiving Day and along State Street and this year November 28 will mark the 85th year for the event.