The Denver 9 News Parade of Lights is an annual winter event. Major Waddles is loved by all. A successful parade requires a lot of volunteers, including emergency communicators. The volunteer emergency communications personnel (hams) typically stand on various corners along the route helping with crowd control and safety. A few walk along the route with some of the floats or bands to provide emergency communications if needed. Many years past, the Parade of Lights felt like it was held on the coldest weekend of the year. Standing on the corner can be a bit chilly.
However, 2012 was a different year for the Parade of Lights. It was an unusually warm year. Standing on the corner wouldn’t have been too bad. There was also a change in assignments for the amateur radio operators. The parade organizers wanted more ham with the floats and bands. Fewer hams were assigned specific spots along the route. The hams were to join up with their respective assignments in the staging area an hour before the parade step off.
On Friday night, being assigned to the Jewelry Box, Unit 27, I headed to my spot. I found the sign marking the spot. I saw the floats for Unit 26 as well as others closely numbered. But, there was no Jewelry Box. Checking, I was informed that the float would be there soon. I hung out with the other hams waiting for the Jewelry Box to show up. The parade started and still no Jewelry Box. Finally, I overheard one of the parade volunteers say the Jewelry Box was at the head of the block and would merge in. I headed towards my assignment and introduced myself to the float captain. This was her first year captaining a float. Most of the floats are motorized. The Jewelry Box, however, was teenager powered. It took four teenagers to push the float with one on each front corner to help steer it. The float captain had fourteen high schoolers to keep track of as they pushed and danced alongside the float. She was also responsible for making sure that they swapped out so everyone had an opportunity to push the float along the route. The exuberance and energy of the high schoolers was great. A few of them would go close to the crowd and tap hands of the small children. Keeping track of them and keeping them close to the float was a challenge. The warm weather had the teenagers actually sweating as they frolicked alongside the float.
On Saturday evening, I was once again assigned to the Jewelry Box. Once again, due to technical difficulties, the float was not lined up, but in a nearby area getting some final tuning. There were different high schoolers assigned to the float on the second night. It was another warm night. This night was a bit more eventful than the precious evening. There was a medical emergency when a band student had an asthma attack and had left the inhaler on the bus. The ham assigned to the band, called for medical assistance and stayed with the student until the professionals arrived providing medical assistance and transportation. The band happened to be near my assigned float. I talked briefly to one of the chaperons letting her know if further assistance was needed, I could assist until their assigned emergency communicator returned. I also provided a quick status of the student.
The warmer than normal weather was also playing havoc with the generators powering the floats and lights. A number of the floats lost some of their lights. All minor issues, nothing that kept the parade from going forward.
If you’ve never seen the Parade of Lights, it is an experience that everyone should have at least once in a lifetime.
Hope to see you next year.