The Denver Parade of Lights is an annual event that members of O.M.E.G.A. have been participating in before O.M.E.G.A. was a twinkle in anyone’s eye. Since O.M.E.G.A.’s inception, this event has stayed on our list of activities. The parade starts off with Major Waddles, a human size penguin, leading the balloon penguin who is the real mascot of the parade. The parade’s mascot is followed by a local marching band which is then succeeded by the rest of the line up. The parade ends with a Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer balloon which is followed by a float with Santa in his sleigh.
All entries in the parade are required to have (working) lights in some way. Some entries use individual battery packs to illuminate a set of lights on the person. Some use a central generator that powers the lights for multiple entries. And others, like the balloons, have a small tractor with a spot light.
The Parade of Lights is a two night event. Friday night, which is televised, has a slightly longer time frame. This is due to the pauses for commercial breaks and having a few more participants. Saturday night’s parade is a bit short, but also starts earlier in the evening.
Throughout the route, the city places police officers to assist with crowd control and security. Amateur radio operators, also known as hams, are placed through out the route as well. The hams assist with communications, missing persons, whether they are children separated from their parents or parents who have gotten themselves lost and other event issues. Many times, an officer and a ham share the same location. This partnership can be beneficial to both sides. Though the police officers have their communications, they are not always apprised of situations and vice versa for the hams. Many times, it is the ham notifying the officer that the parade has officially started or that we are in commercial break.
Occasionally, there is a motorist who insists that he needs to exit a parking garage and wants on the parade route (after the parade has started). The hams in the area will do their best to dissuade the motorist. If this cannot be done, then the ham will request a law enforcement officer to intervene. The motorist will then see the error of their ways and hold off until the parade is over. Once in a while, emergency vehicles will need to come down the parade route. At this time, the officers and hams will make sure the parade is halted, unblock the road ways, and make sure the emergency vehicles can pass through safely.
The 2010 Parade of Lights was fairly quiet. The officer on my corner was nice and willing to accept the ham operators as partners during the event. Friday night proved to be the more eventful of the two evenings. When a few spectators came toward our location and chatted briefly with the officer, he headed mid-block. When I checked with them, they informed me that there was what appeared to be a gang fight going on in the alley. Since there was chatter on the radio, I followed the officer to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. When I caught up to the officer in the alley, he had been joined by two other officers from the next corner. The individuals who were supposedly involved in the gang fight, had dispersed. We all headed back to our respective locations. The officer from my corner and I kept a more vigilant eye on the crowd in case any more incidents cropped up. During set up and blocking off the road on Saturday night, the officer and I discussed the game plan should another gang fight, or other such incident, pop up. Both of us decided that at least one should stay at the corner to make sure it was not a distraction in order to cause other trouble. So, he being the law enforcement officer and having more clout in breaking up a fight or other incident, would be the one to check out the fight, with assistance from other officers, and I would stay at the corner keeping a very close eye on the crowd. He assured me that he would have back up and not be by himself. Luckily, Saturday night was a quiet night.
At the end of the parade, after Santa had passed by, the spectators began to disperse. Many would walk to another location to see the parade again, some head to other parts of 16th Street Mall and the rest get into their vehicles to leave. Though not all hams do, I assist the officer at my corner with traffic and pedestrian crossing. This makes for a slightly longer evening, but provides the opportunity to let the officer know that hams can be more than just communications. It also means that I don’t have to wait in a crowded lobby for our table to be made ready. Another tradition that O.M.E.G.A. has kept is to go to the Hard Rock Café for dinner, dessert, and camaraderie after the parade. This includes the ham operators, parade participants and spectators.
For those who have never seen the Parade of Lights, I would strongly recommend seeing it at least once. The parade is the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, opening the holiday shopping season in downtown Denver. We look forward to seeing you December 3 and 4, 2011.