Can’t Make the Parade?
Visit the Museum
All you have to do is make your way to Shenandoah
Caverns, Va., in Shenandoah National Park. Think of this
unusual museum as an opportunity to admire floats at
your own pace. “It’s a reverse parade—the tourists parade
past the floats,” says Sharon Campbell, a guide at the
40,000-square-foot cavern-side attraction.
“The American Celebration on Parade,” which opened
eight years ago, owes its existence to the Hargrove family.
The family has been building floats for presidential Inaugural
Parades since 1949 and Harry Truman. It has also made floats
for Philadelphia’s Mummers parades. And what it doesn’t
build it tries to collect. Examples include floats from Rose
Bowl parades that were stored in a warehouse for years until
a building could be built big enough to show them off.
Other finds include a giant flag float built for Ronald Reagan’s 1985 inauguration and recycled at several subsequent
inaugural events. And don’t miss the Conestoga wagon that
honored Vice President Dick Cheney in 2001 and 2005. In
the tradition of many parades, it was built close to deadline,
in just 20 days, after Florida’s hanging chads delayed the
naming of the winner of the 2000 presidential election.
past tens of thousands of revelers. The
boats, festooned with lights, compete
for best Christmas theme, “best illuminated” and best in parade. One
year, Perry recalls, a sailboat skipper
mounted an illuminated 35-foot-tall
Angel Gabriel, complete with horn and
wings with a trailing robe. Another
year a power boat chugged by under a
giant menorah. Regulars keep warm by
grabbing ringside seats inside adjacent
restaurants and hotels. Hint: Book early.
What: Ukrop’s Christmas Parade
When: Saturday, Dec. 6
Where: Richmond, Va.
Why: The Richmond Christmas
Parade is celebrating its 25th year, and
city officials say the operative word
is “bigger.” That’s no small ambition:
About 5,000 people paraded through
town last year, and the event drew more
than a quarter of a million spectators.
You never know who’s going to show
up; one year singer Paul Simon shot a
music video, Proof, during the parade,
and as he danced and sang his way
along the route, he was joined by Chevy
Chase and Steve Martin, who—well,
you just have to see it (
Along with marching bands, drill
units, Santa Claus and the customary
floats, watch for children’s TV and cartoon characters like Rocky, Bullwinkle
and Ms. (Hello) Kitty. Some 600 volunteers make it all come together, up to
400 of them detailed to steer the balloon
figures down the street. “The goal for the
next few years is to make the parade and
that entire weekend a destination event
throughout the region,” says organizing
committee chairman John Melleky.
What: A Village Christmas Parade
When: Saturday, Dec. 13
Where: Powhatan, Va.
Why: Picture a precision unit of
motorized port-a-johns buzzing down
a street called Old Buckingham Road,
a hole cut in their doors so the drivers
can see where they are going as they toss
rolls of toilet paper to startled spectators. Powhatan, a town of just 27,000
about 25 miles west of Richmond, may
reflect old-fashioned village values, but
it also knows how to throw a holiday
party. A bonfire warms residents as they
first check out the wares and food offerings at booths set up on the courthouse square. Then it’s off to the parade
to watch local business leaders, Cub
Scouts, Girl Scouts, firefighters, antique
cars, clowns and horses join a steel
drum band. This will be the 16th edition
of the two-and-a-half-mile event. While
Santa Claus is a key figure in the parade,
the star here is Mother Christmas, a
costumed local who gathers $3,000 to
$4,000 in cash from the crowd to be
donated to charity.
Strutting Their Stuff
What: Mummers Parade
When: Thursday, Jan. 1
Why: Now imagine a two-mile route
jammed with 12,000 clowns, string
bands, “fancys” costumed in sequins,