Durham News: Opinion

Marc Lee: Lining up for the return of the Durham parade

By Marc Lee

Marc Lee
Marc Lee

Man, times fly when you are involved in the entertainment business, and this whole thing about us getting back a parade in Durham got me to thinking about this.

Yes, I have seen CenterFest go from the center of downtown to the area on Foster Street near the YMCA and now back to downtown again. I have seen the Festival for the Eno undergo changes, and Bimbé held at various locations, and of course, the Blues Festival go through various changes.

But, what really has me thinking about all of this is the fact that 20 years ago, Durham didn’t have a parade and there was a lady who loved parades and wanted to bring one back to down. That lady was Phyllis Coley, currently of Spectacular Magazine, but at that time, a driving force behind the Triangle Tribune.

Well, she recruited a few of us to help bring the festival back to the area, most of us with no parade experience whatsoever. Shucks, I couldn’t even get accepted in my high school band, so though I know a little bit about music (my folks helped start a radio station in rural Warren County) I would never claim to know anything about marching bands or a lot of the other things that parades need.

I know I used to love watching the spectacle of parades on TV, like the Rose Bowl Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and loved seeing the various characters and personalities in the parade and of course waiting for the big star of the parade, Santa Claus, to come across the screen. These things were signs that winter was here, just like watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman definitely let you know it was Christmas time (and can’t you just hear the Peanuts gang?).

I can tell you we made a great effort to make sure that there was a diverse mix of people, and we brought the parade right through the downtown area. Among those that we had were Shriners, the Hillside High School band, and various other organizations. And yes, we had the required floats, and we even made a road trip to Raleigh to see how they did it over there and get some ideas.

Of course, we wanted the inflatables but it didn’t seem like it would be possible with the way our power lines and other things are set up so we scratched that idea. But, we also stumbled across some special treats just by keeping our eyes on the streets like the slender rail cars (those are those cars that don’t have a body surrounding them) and we recruited them into the parade.

Yes, it’s a challenge creating a parade. You have to make sure that there isn’t too much dead space, that you space out your musical groups, and that you have people there to clean up what the horses may leave behind. And of course, you have to make sure that certain organizations and city groups are represented.

But, it’s a challenge that I believe Durham needs to have again and I look forward to seeing it happen again in 2016, and if there is anything I can do to help, don’t hesitate to call on me? And I’m pretty sure, you can call on Ms. Coley and others as well.

Here is hoping we bring the parade back in 2016 and that I see thousands on the streets of Durham enjoying this event.

You can reach Marc Lee at bluesradio@gmail.com