After years of listening to Mr. Bruin (aka my dearest husband) wax nostalgic for Denver’s Christmas parade, the Parade of Lights, we finally made it this year! It was chilly, in the 20s, but the wind wasn’t a factor amongst the tall downtown buildings. When we got out of the car, we were doubting our decision to attend. But once we got to 16th Street prior to the parade’s start, we were fine!
Our friends (the Scotties) joined us from Colorado Springs. They’ve lived there most of the 20 years we’ve known each other. And yet they had no idea what the Parade of Lights was! Somehow, I failed to mention Denver in the planning conversations, so they thought they were coming to a mid-size CO town for a little parade. They’d never even been to downtown Denver at night! As we talked, it came out that they had never even been to a real parade! Sure, they’ve seen little parades at festivals, but they’d never been to a parade as the whole event. That’s now in the past, and I can say I’ve been to Denver’s Parade of Lights, too!
In fact, this is the first parade I’ve attended that included the large balloons controlled by teams of people. The balloons were each led by a vehicle with spotlights to make the balloons more visible. We stood near an intersection and each time a balloon came by, the controllers lowered the balloon. At first we thought it might be because of the wind tunnel effect at the break in buildings, as the street lights did not cross the entire street. But it was the lights that were the issue. Various teams approached the lights differently. Most lowered the balloon, which in the case of the penguin meant the balloon appeared to kiss the street! The best was when a flying Rudolph was flown higher so he launched over the top of the traffic lights!
As you might imagine from the name of the parade, the theme behind all the entries in the parade are Christmas lights. Members of marching bands were each covered in lights! I didn’t get any decent pictures of them though. Something else I found fun about the marching bands was that each one had a theme. One school’s theme was the science of light, another was The Nightmare Before Christmas – each player in that band had a painted face. Instruments were usually decked out in tinsel and lights. Mr. Bruin recalled his days of marching in the parade, where the players had a tiny portion of tinsel and only a few players carried lights. Progress has been made – his descriptions make the parades of 20 years ago sound spartan in comparison to what we saw last night!
Of course, the fantastic parts of the parade were the floats. Here are just two classic Christmas examples: a gingerbread house and the Nutcracker. Our little group was thrilled to see the true Christmas float, a nativity scene!
Denver’s National Western Stock Show was represented in the parade. Horses were expected. But in keeping with the parade theme, there was even a cowboy doing rope tricks with a lighted lasso (click for video).
We shared all the evening’s excitement with 14-month old Kermode Bruin. Last year she couldn’t go because she hadn’t yet received all her puppy vaccinations. This year, she was a trooper! Puppy’s first parade couldn’t have gone better! There was a lovely couple next to us, one of whom had a headband with ears and reindeer antlers. Pet stores carry them but they’re too small for our dogs. These adult headbands were perfect! So the very nice man next to us went into a private party in the building behind us and came back with two headbands for our dogs. They look fantastic! (But that’ll be another blog.)
Kermode was very well behaved. We stood in front of a larger planter on the street, which I would recommend for any parade-attending dog. It protected her from being trampled or stepped on, and gave her something to huddle under when she was unhappy with something passing by. She’s not a fan of marching bands, as it turns out. I covered her ears every time one passed. But there were a couple of other entries that she didn’t like, either, and the commonality was drums. Even I could feel the reverberations of the drums, and she was not a fan of them. Fortunately for her, she contents herself with leaning into her people. A few times, that meant the 95-pound fluffy sweetheart almost pushed me over!
She was intrigued with the horses, but her favorite parade entrants were the groups of dogs! There were samoyeds with lighted backpacks, and she wanted to make a few new friends. The other dog group was mainly border collies, but there were several other dogs represented as well. They were disc dogs – a club of some sort for dogs who adore chasing frisbees! The group was a great representation of owners who work closely with their active dogs and was wonderful to see! Kermode’s never chased a frisbee, but she’d be more interested in playing with the dogs than toys any day!
Overall, it was a wonderful evening, worth the cold toes that came with it. The crowd wasn’t too bad, as nobody we encountered was rude – how often do you experience that in a big city? Even better? The traffic escaping town immediately after the parade wasn’t bad. All in all, I’d say we have a new annual event to attend. And we know that Kermode will behave herself at noisy, crazy events. Bonus!
The hardest part of the evening was knowing where to go. I glanced at the map a few days prior to the event, but didn’t try memorizing anything. Early yesterday evening, before and during the drive to downtown Denver, we tried to pull up the website with a map of the parade route and parking options. Unfortunately, I think everyone else in the area was doing the same. We couldn’t access the site! So for any of you searching for that information from alternate sources (like this post), here are the details.
The parade goes again on Saturday, December 3rd, starting at 6 p.m. The route essentially loops the 16th Street Mall. Quoting from the parade’s website: “the 9NEWS Parade of Lights steps off at the City & County Building at 14th Avenue & Bannock Street, crosses Colfax Avenue, travels west on 14th Street, turns right on Tremont Place and goes three blocks to 17th Street. The parade travels down 17th Street to Arapahoe Street and turns left, making another left turn on 15th Street and continuing on 15th Street up to Glenarm Place. The parade turns right on Glenarm Place and finishes at 14th Street & Glenarm Place.” Saturday’s supposed to be pretty cold, so bundle up and take a thermos of something hot to drink! And don’t forget blankets to sit on, if you don’t want to stand the whole time.