Reverse parade: Christmas Island Style event has spectators driving by the floats

Lance Shearer

It was a street parade, without the street. In lieu of the traditional Christmas Island Style street parade on San Marco Blvd., the group held a reverse or static parade on Saturday evening. The floats and exhibits stood still in the parking lot at Veterans’ Community Park, and the community members who wanted to see them drove slowly through the assemblage, staying safely in their own vehicles. Some cars came back around for a repeat.

While it couldn’t match the magnitude or the outpouring of spirit generated by the usual street parade, the static version drew hundreds or thousands of spectators, with a steady line of cars taking in the tableaux, decorated emergency vehicles, musical entertainment and of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The ability to remain in one spot and play worked well for the musicians of the Marco Island Charter Middle School jazz band, sitting with their horns wrapped in Christmas lights, and playing through surgical masks. They performed a medley of Christmas songs, and could repeat as often as they wished, as each carload of spectators was in earshot for just a short while.

Many of the exhibits had their own canned musical accompaniment, which led to the ears of those in the middle of several of them being hit simultaneously multiple carols in various keys. One perennial parade favorite, the Marco Presbyterian bell ringers, played live, next to a nativity scene complete with wise men, angels, farm animals portrayed by young children, and Mary and Joseph all live, with only baby Jesus represented by a recumbent doll. But just as in “Away in a Manger,” “no crying he made,” and the spectacle was beautiful.

Members of the island’s Rotary clubs dressed up as gift boxes, labeled with the names of organizations the clubs donate funds to, including Habitat for Humanity, St. Matthew’s House, and Meals of Hope. Our Daily Bread Food Pantry volunteers showed up and waved at the passersby. The Sunshine Sisters tableau showed “The Night Before Christmas,” complete with the mouse that didn’t stir, and mama in her kerchief.

At their float, Marco Lutheran Church handed out flyers promoting their Christmas service, and the Marco Sportfishing Club, including Gloria Robertson decked out as a Christmas tree, appropriately handed out Swedish fish. High overhead, the Condee Cooling bubble machine put out a continuous spray of soap bubble snow, atop a lofty scissor lift.

The MIPD had an ATV with the Grinch in the driver’s seat – you wouldn’t want to get pulled over by him, before his heart swelled – and the Fire-Rescue Dept. Firefighter of the Year Lt. Robert Riegler waved to the passing cars, accompanied by his wife Michelle and three children, Nicholas, 14, Madison, 13, and Aubree, 6. The idea for the static parade was brought to CIS by Fire Chief Chris Byrne, who along with his wife Michelle saw a similar procession drive by the race cars at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina.

Christmas Island Style chairman Steve Stefanides said they lost a few organizations that were set to participate, including at least one which had COVID-19 rear its head.

“We had to cancel the tree lighting ceremony – I couldn’t put 3,000 people all together” with the coronavirus rampant, said Stefanides. “I took some heat” – and now, just like Santa relaxing under a palm tree after his busy December, Stef and the rest of the volunteers should be able to take some well-earned rest.

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