Holiday parades are a great way to showcase your rollerskating rink to the local community, and it’s a great value, when you consider the entry fee and the targeted audience. Seasonal events like these are family-friendly, and chances are good, you’ll meet people who need a reminder on why skating is so much fun, and a healthy activity. Plus, there are awards bestowed for Best Entry!
National vs. Local Coverage
Every year, right after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which airs on live television to an audience of millions, I start to hear kvetching about how the bowling industry has an entry, and roller skating does not. However, I’m not sure this national event brings the best bang for the buck when you think about how many roller skating rinks still exist in the USA, and how many are members of the Roller Skating Association (<1,000). It’s a huge investment for such an endeavor. The entry fees for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, along with the cost of the float, or humungous custom-made balloon, plus travel expenses for the crew to set up and perform in the event is close to 7-figures, if you’re even accepted. That right there is why you don’t see roller skating in the Macy’s parade.
Local town parades, however, are an awesome marketing initiative and one that should be included in every rink’s publicity plan. Plus, they’re much closer to home, and a lot less expensive. The local hometown parade is a rink owner’s best way to advertise, and their reach is exactly the customer they should be looking for. People in their own community.
The exposure from these events is immeasurable, including local television coverage, shares and engagement on social media, and the opportunity to remind everyone watching, roller skating has evolved!
I’ve participated several times in small town holiday parades, and here’s what I’ve learned about doing it on skates.
Do some Research
Terrain matters. Before entering the parade for the first time, find out in advance what the route is, and physically go out there and walk it once, examining for potholes, hills, large patches and cracks, blind spots, and anything else that can be dangerous. Find out if the route will be swept by the City ahead of the parade. Ask if the Clydesdales, or any other horses will be ahead of your entry, and if there will be pooper scoopers to pick up the mess. Will other participants be throwing candy that could trip up a skater? Will you be allowed to distribute free passes or other items?
Determine where the judging stands are located. This is typically where the sponsoring TV Station is situated. How long does your crew have to perform? Is it on a slope?
Prepare for the Weather
The weather for these events can be very unpredictable. Sometimes it’s nice and balmy, and the crew will be sweating. Or it can be brutally cold and windy, or worse, snowing or raining. Wet surfaces can be especially slick for the skaters. Find out if the parade gets postponed for inclement weather.
Consider that nighttime parades will be dark, so avoid matching outfits in black, unless you have reflective tape on it. After the parade, everyone tends to disperse at once, and the last thing you need is a float or driver running over a skater because they couldn’t see them. White, or fluorescent colors that glow under a black light are especially appealing. Plus, your skaters can enjoy wearing them throughout the year, advertising your rink.
Don’t forget to tell your skaters to use outside wheels for this event. This is a good opportunity to show them how to change their wheels.
Decorating the Float
Your float will need to be decorated to match the parade theme, as it will be judged. Obviously, that means additional power will be necessary to keep it lit up throughout a nighttime parade. Don’t waste the power while you’re in the lineup mode.
Also test out your skate car. Not for 45 seconds, but for at least 20 minutes. Make sure that battery is fully charged for the journey through the cold.
Get your best skaters involved, have them learn an easy synchronized routine to perform along the parade route and in front of the judges.
Music to Include
Play a few different songs from your speakers on the float, but you don’t have to play the entire song. Remember, your audience is changing on the ground every few minutes, and your viewers at home will only get a glimpse from the judges stands. Make that one your best performance.
Showcase how skating has changed, demonstrating the latest jam skate and hip hop moves. However, don’t forget the grooves of the past either. Get the spectators involved, encouraging them to sing along and dance: include the YMCA every so often for a few bars. A little kid seeing their grandma know the dance moves is a sight to see. And it reminds the older adults that skating is fun and the kids need to experience it.
Why Parades Matter
Rink Owners that regularly participate in their town’s annual parades notice an uptick in traffic, and it keeps their local roller skating facility top of mind for those looking for an affordable family friendly activity they can do year round. Plus, you’ll also recognize familiar faces in the crowd, thanking you for what you do.
Start Planning Now
Parade season is weeks away. It’s time to gather your skaters, submit your application, and order your matching shirts.
May 2024 be your best year yet.