Light up the night

Published 12:17 am Thursday, October 27, 2011

Business owners and organization volunteers visited a float workshop on Wednesday night to learn more about how to illuminate their floats for this year’s nighttime Christmas parade. This float, with a “Peanut Island” theme, was used by Suffolk in a nighttime parade in another city.

Parade participants prepare to power their floats

Chicken wire, a staple gun and fake reindeer may not seem to have a lot in common at first glance.

The hot glue that holds them all together, though, is that they all are practically must-have items for Christmas parade floats.

These items — along with garland, plywood and, of course, a trailer — were on a list of potential float ingredients provided to six attendees at a float-building workshop sponsored by Suffolk Parks and Recreation on Wednesday night.

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This year’s Dec. 10 parade is the first nighttime parade in Suffolk in several years, and many of the attendees were anxious to get ideas about how to illuminate their floats — particularly since this year’s theme is “Light Up the Night with Holiday Spirit.”

“It’s general enough that you can interpret it how you wish,” said Theresa Earles, tourism development coordinator for the city. “I want this to be a teambuilding experience for you and fun for the kids that participate.”

Some added incentive for groups to construct and enter floats this year is that there is a cash prize for the float category.

“This year, we are spreading the love,” Earles said.

She provided advice learned from her history of constructing floats for the tourism department to enter in parades, both in Suffolk and in other cities.

“Where there’s a staple gun, hot glue and volunteers, there’s a way,” Earles said. “Remember, you can build anything out of chicken wire.”

Earles suggested that float-builders do an Internet search for how to build a parade float, and also doled out step-by-step instructions and advice on constructing the floats from ordinary trailers.

The next step after constructing the float is lighting it up. Earles suggested a generator in the back of the pickup truck pulling the float, as well as music to dull the noise from the generator.

“You want to make sure you don’t overload your circuits,” Earles said, also suggesting that participants ensure they have plenty of gas for the generators.

Last came the fun part — decorations and themes. Earles suggested dozens of different ideas based on movies and television shows, traditional themes, contemporary trends, religious holidays and more.

“You’re going to need your friends, your family, your staff to help you,” she said. “You probably don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, but there’s no reason why it can’t look like you spent thousands of dollars on it.”

Entries for the Dec. 10 parade through downtown still are being accepted. For more information, call the tourism office at 514-4130.