By Brandi Makuski
For a city that so relishes and promotes its culture and arts, local holiday parades of late are certainly lacking in inspiration.
For every one parade entry — you can’t call them floats anymore — that follows the holiday’s theme and measure down Main St., there are two behind it which do not.
The patriotic music was sorely lacking during this year’s July 4th parade in the downtown district — the once-staple polka band was gone, and indeed, a marching band is a somewhat defining characteristic of a parade — with too many parade entries focusing instead on free advertising and distribution of candy and coupons.
There’s nothing better on a hot day than a nice cold bottle of water or a freeze pop, handed to you fresh from the stocked cooler of one of those parade entries, but hand-outs were so frequent it was difficult at times to see the parade at all, and leaving with a bag or pocketful of coupons, campaign fliers and football schedules sure takes a lot of the joy out of any holiday.
Riverfront Rendezvous is well-known for its excellent musical line-ups, and this year was no exception. Kudos all around to the Stevens Point Parks Dept. and all who worked to secure artists and musicians; they were indeed the biggest draw of the weekend.
Another big draw for the event is the downtown fireworks show. Unfortunately, the show lasted 17 minutes this year — down from 22 minutes in 2015 — and hardly seemed worth the 10-15 minutes it took many folks to park and haul their lawn chairs to an available seating space.
Luster seemed to also be lacking in the 2016 Trivia parade, which was only about half as long as last year’s.
One can only hope this isn’t an ongoing trend. The 2015 Christmas parade, also held in the downtown, kicked off in magical “Harry Potter” fashion thanks, in part, to Mayor Mike Wiza — something that made up in spectacle what it almost lost due to constant handouts and wheeled vendors that followed.
This year’s Celebrate Plover will forego the parade entirely — only temporarily — until village leaders can create a suitable route on public streets with more room. Village officials say the path previously used for the parade inside Lake Pacawa Park simply isn’t wide enough to accommodate municipal vehicles, like fire trucks, often associated with parades.
But do parades, or other community-wide celebrations, need to be confined to a waterfront? And is there room — or desire — for a parade in another part of the community, to include the city’s south side or Whiting, and in honor of another holiday like Thanksgiving, Memorial Day or Halloween?
No one can answer those questions but the community itself. The lack of a marching band in the downtown parade isn’t the fault of the Association of Downtown Businesses — there simply wasn’t a marching band that showed interest in signing up to perform.
Parades are also an enormous undertaking, and those involved aren’t paid for their time. But if a parade is done right, there’s little else that can align a community, set the tone for a holiday or prime folks’ pocketbooks for spending in local businesses in the days that follow.