12/14/09 — Workin' it -- Eureka ... it's a parade

View Archive

Workin' it -- Eureka ... it's a parade

By Laura Collins
Published in News on December 14, 2009 2:08 PM

The Job: Parade coordinator

The Company: Town of Eureka Christmas Parade Committee

The Location: Streets of Eureka

I would like to take a cue from Tiger Woods and issue an apology from me to the Town of Eureka: I'm sorry for my indiscretions.

I'm not exactly sure what my indiscretions were, but someone messed up the timing of the annual Eureka Christmas Parade, and I'm willing to bet that I was somehow involved.

See, the parade in Eureka is a little different than most places.

Anyone who wants to participate in the town's annual march comes out that morning and lines up with everyone else. That's where my job came in. When Jimmy Wise, chairman of the parade committee, told me I'd be lining up the participants and sending them off on the parade route I was skeptical.

"How much do you actually like your Christmas parade?" I asked him.

He insisted that the way they do it is "the easier way," so I said I'd give it a shot.

Chris Sauls and Bruce Newsome, both assistant fire chiefs in Eureka, told me the science behind the parade, which was not quite as easy as Wise had indicated.

"The parade is usually longer than the town. Keep the horses away from everything else because the fire trucks got horns and the kids don't know how to drive around them. And the fire trucks need to be able to get out in case they get a call. Also, everyone wants to go be in the front but the Honor Guard always goes in the front after that you just have to kind of decide who goes next," Sauls said.

"And the toughest time is the last 10 minutes before the parade starts because everyone gets here and no one knows where to go," Newsome added.

Sunday turned out to be a rainy day, so instead of about 80 units in the parade, there were only about 50, and there weren't horses, so I didn't have to worry about that aspect.

Shortly before the parade started, I was instructed to go around and let people know it was almost time to go. That's when I figured it out. The parade isn't the only thing different in the great state of Eureka. I know that technically it's not a state, but there are things that set Eureka apart. For one, everyone knows and uses one phrase in every situation that can mean virtually anything. I noticed there is also confusion when I don't use this phrase.

"OK, it's almost time for the parade," I said to a guy standing outside of his truck. I got a blank stare in return. Danny Spenser, who was riding in the golf cart with me took over.

"All right, let's tighten up, buddy," he said and there was an instant understanding.

"OK, tighten up," the guy said to the rest of the people planning to ride in his truck bed. From there on out, I used "Tighten up, buddy," to answer almost any question, and it seemed to work.

When the parade started, vehicles were lined up along Church and Darden streets. We took turns letting a few from each side go at a time. After most of the cars were out, I hopped on the golf cart with Sauls to inspect how the parade was running. In Eureka, it's perfectly normal to forgo a vehicle and ride around town in a golf cart.

When we got to one of the intersections of the parade, we noticed that not only was the parade not there, but the officer in charge of blocking the street had also left.

"Where is Santa?" Sauls said into the walkie-talkie. "He needs to tighten up. There's a big gap."

"'Big' ain't the word for it," said the person on the other end.

Apparently there was a large gap in the parade, so people, including the officer I'm assuming, thought it was over and started leaving. Sauls "fixed" this problem by blocking the road with his golf cart. He hopped off to talk to someone, so I was left holding down the golf cart in the middle of the road blocking traffic. I'm not sure how legal it was.

In the end, though, Santa and the others tightened up. Grand Marshals Barney Fife and Ernest T. impersonators kept everyone laughing and the parade came to a successful conclusion.

"I think the parade went great, with what we had to work with," Wise said, speaking either of the weather or me. "We had a lot of people and great participation in the audience and in the parade."

It was impressive to see the number of people who came out for the annual parade. Parents and children clapped and cheered for the people in the parade, seemingly unaware of the cold and rainy weather. Maybe that is yet another testament to the great state of Eureka.

Christmas cheer is clear -- no matter what the weather.