In The Spirit

Shoebox parade brings holiday feeling back

Times Observer photos by Brian Ferry Above, Donnie Rosie of Rosie Marketing gets a low-angle shot of the Grinch-themed McKissock float. Second, the Children’s Advocacy Center float is next to roll in front of the cameras.

If the shoe fits, there might be the foundation for a parade float left over.

The annual Downtown Warren Christmas Walk and Parade features a parade of shoebox floats this year.

No marching. No throwing of candy. No people lined up shoulder-to-shoulder along Pennsylvania Avenue.

COVID-19 altered the parade, but it did not cancel it.

The Christmas Committee, spearheaded by the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, came up with a way to have a parade for the community without gathering thousands of people.

“We at the chamber know it’s been tough on everyone,” Savannah Casey said. “We wanted to do something in a year when we couldn’t do anything.”

“We’re putting our best foot forward,” John Papalia said.

The idea for the shoebox parade was floated, and it kicked into high gear – 42 businesses, non-profits, and other entities submitted floats for the parade.

Entries were due Friday.

On Tuesday, a group of organizers and guests got together at Struthers Library Theatre to video the parade of shoeboxes.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry There were 42 shoe box floats created by businesses, non-profits, and Scouts, that were entered in this year’s Warren Christmas Parade. Photos and video of each float were shot Tuesday at Struthers Library Theatre.

Donnie Rosie of Rosie Marketing and Lance Pangborn handled the video.

Committee members Casey, Papalia, Gary Lester, Melissa McLean, and Rob McKeown, as well as Ryan Casey helped set up the floats and take care of all the necessary steps for holding a miniature parade.

“Even in a shoebox parade, the lineup is still the hardest part,” saud Papalia, whose tasks included dragging the floats in front of the cameras.

The familiar voices of Mark Silvis and Dale Bliss are the audio. They gave a play-by-play as each float processed past the judging stand.

The committee members didn’t know, when they came up with the idea of a shoe box parade, how well it would be received.

“We are overwhelmed at the response and grateful for the community support,” Casey said.

Usually, it takes many hands to create a parade float. This year, anyone could do it. “We’re pleased to see the small businesses represented as well as the big guys that participate every year,” she said.

With so many floats, and no limits other than maximum sizes, there was a lot of variety in the entries. Several had lights. One had sound — Partridges, but not turtle doves, calling birds, nor French hens. Some floats were very directional — taking advantage of there only being front and side vantage points.

“We are excited to see the difference and uniqueness of each,” Casey said.

The parade will be shown on an inflatable screen on Liberty Street during the Christmas Walk — 5 to 7 p.m. Friday.

It will also be uploaded to the WCCBI YouTube and Facebook channels.

The floats will be on display at McKissock’s all month.

In January, committee members will deliver floats to those who indicated that they would like them to be returned.

In addition to the parade video, the Christmas Walk will feature some distanced vendors on Liberty Street.

Although Santa will be in attendance, brought to Second Avenue and Liberty Street by Allegheny Memorials, he will be barricaded for his safety at Mrs. Claus’ orders, Casey said. Visitors may speak with Santa, but are asked not to get too close, lest he risk becoming ill at his most critical time of year.

Participation in the Walk is down, but not out, this year, with the pandemic and distancing guidelines, but Allegheny Outfitters will offer hot cocoa at Clark Street and Virg-Ann will feature its living window display on Pennsylvania Avenue, Casey said.

Regardless of the popularity of the shoe box float parade, organizers are hoping the parade returns to its previous format next year.

“We’re wishing everyone a happy and safe holiday season,” Casey said.


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