Village News asked parade Chairperson Angela McDaniel about this year’s Christmas Parade. The parade start at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8 and will run from the Chester YMCA to Chester Village.
How many years has the Kiwanis Club of Chester been presenting the Christmas Parade in Chester?
I have absolutely no idea. I’ve been asked that very question numerous times. This is my seventh year supporting and my sixth year chairing.
When do you begin working on it each year and how much help do you have before and at the event?
I begin ‘parade prep’ in June/July each year by submitting the necessary paperwork for all permits (County, VDOT, Chesterfield Police). From there I start creating flyers, registration forms and necessary rules and regulations. This is basically a ‘paper chase’ and ‘wait’ game, so it’s done on my own. In early fall, I submit articles to the Village News to advertise and to send reminders to everyone that Christmas is only a few months away. I work closely with the club and start setting up club volunteers for staging areas and help on parade day. I work closely with Marshall Henry, our Key Club Sponsor, so that he can make TDHS Key Clubbers aware of their needed support on parade day. The kids are great and really jump in to help with whatever is needed. On parade day, the entire club starts early in the morning on staging and traffic and whatever is needed. Prep is a one-woman show. The parade is a total group and community effort.
William “Boogie” Henderson is a great choice for Grand Marshal this year. Was it difficult convincing him to participate?
Not difficult to convince. He’s a Chester native and loves to support our community events. Our only issue was getting his busy schedule to work. He’s a BUSY man. He travels a great deal and it’s hard to pin him down. We’ve been VERY lucky and we’re all excited to have not only him, but his family also.
Does the Kiwanis form a committee to come up with a theme and other aspects of the parade?
So far, I’m the parade committee. I’ve always been open to ideas when they are offered, but each Kiwanis member has their own effort to support and the parade is usually left up to me. They jump in when I need it. This year, the theme came from my oldest son, Jarrett, senior at TDHS. I told him that I needed a parade theme and, right then and there, he said, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I loved it and went with it.
Can you tell us who is on the committee?
Right now, I’m the committee. Chris Bates is a new Kiwanis member, but old hand (he helped with the Christmas Parade long ago, when the Jaycees sponsored it). Chris has become my right hand.
Typically how many units sign up for the parade?
On a beautiful year, without rain/sleet (because the parade goes on, rain or shine), I can usually expect between 60 and 70.
Have you a count on the number of units yet?
We’re already over 50 and there’s still a week to go. I put a December 1 cutoff on everything, but I’m an old ‘softy’ and I still take units up to the night before (it’s been done before and I’m sure it will again).
The Key Club helps a great deal. Are they required to help or are they getting public service hours?
The Key Club members do get public service hours, but only a few are actually there for ‘parade support.’ Most show up, still help out, and then participate in the parade. They gave out small trinkets and candy to the kids during the parade last year and it looks like it was a hit. It’s planned again for this year’s parade.
I know all the kids love the Shriner’s clowns and little cars. Is it difficult booking them for the parade?
The Shriner’s are wonderful. In fact, they love the Chester Christmas Parade and they usually contact me in the summer, long before I’ve released information.
Marching bands are also a great part of a parade; who will be marching this year?
Marching bands are loved and I wish we had more. Thomas Dale will be marching as always and we’re glad they are returning. I can usually count on Fort Lee’s Army Band (another permit/request I submit in the summer), but in the past two years, our schedules have conflicted and we’ve missed them). The issue with marching bands is a transportation one. Schools just don’t have the budget to get them here.
Will some of the winners from last year, band, float best of show and equestrian etc. be back this year?
As far as I can tell, all will be there, plus many more are offering great competition!
What is the biggest challenge in organizing the event?
I actually love the challenge and have been told that I’m ‘overly organized’ on just about everything I do. My biggest challenge is not stressing myself out on parade day. I know in my heart that everything works out, but the stress is always there.
It goes without saying that you watch the weather continually and it’s a rain or shine event. Do you lose many units when it rains?
Yes, on a rain day we usually lose at least 2/3 of the participants. However, you have to take in consideration the type of ‘rain.’ December Rain tends to be rain/sleet/ice. That type of weather causes a lot of dropouts, but those dropouts are dance troupes, walkers, horses (which can’t march in ice). It’s heart breaking to have a sad parade day, but it’s understandable by all.
What is your estimate of spectators at each event over the years?
On a beautiful parade day, 5,000 or more. On a rain day, possibly 100 and most sitting in their vehicles keeping dry and warm, but still appreciated and enjoying the parade.
What is the rule for giving out candy this year?
I always have the same rule – candy can be passed out, not thrown. Being a mother, and parade spectator at other parades, my biggest fear is always that a small child will run into the street for a piece of candy and get injured by one of the entries.
What’s your favorite part of being organizer of the parade?
My favorite, by all means, is near the end of the parade. I leave my target spot at the YMCA, where I stay in case anyone has questions or needs, and I walk to Route 10. I enjoy seeing the kids when Santa finally arrives. It’s priceless and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. That one event makes the paperwork, preparation and stress all worthwhile.