- October 28, 2020
At one point in Ocoee’s Christmas Parade last Saturday, I looked behind us only to find two of my kids lagging so far behind us that they actually were several rows deep into the Ocoee High School marching band. Our team from the Observer Media Group got the best position in the whole parade — the Knights band is amazing, and we got to listen to them the entire time — but that also meant we had to keep pace.
In that panicked moment, I realized I hadn’t given any parade instructions to my kids (other than to hand out candy). Instead of simply tossing our packets of sweets to the little ones on the sides of the road, Lyric and Aria were stopping to tell jokes to anyone and everyone who would listen. Endearing? Certainly. But Band Director Bernie Hendricks couldn’t stop his group just so they could try their one-liners on a captive audience.
I sprinted back and yelled for them to get out of the band’s way and keep up with our group. They did try, bless their hearts, but my wife also had to retreat to rescue them a second time.
This was the Observer’s first time participating in the parade, and despite the long walk back to our cars (we didn’t think to have some vehicles parked at the end) and the absence of true Christmas weather (someone needs to invent a Santa hat with a built-in fan), I can’t wait to do it again. We loved seeing so many smiling faces and having a chance to brighten your season with a simple, “Merry Christmas!” We loved hearing so many say they love the newspaper, and Lyric and Aria were so excited to share their terribly punny “dad jokes.”
Because we were in the parade, I didn’t realize what had happened with the UDD dance team until after the parade was over. For those who didn’t attend, some parade-goers objected to the team’s choice of music, which included obscenities and questionable subject matter, as well as its dance moves, which they said were too provocative to be performed by young girls.
The objections intensified later in the day, when UDD also participated in Winter Garden’s Christmas Parade (although Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said UDD was not an authorized participant).
Although I did not see UDD’s performance firsthand, one of our staffers did, and there also were videos circulated online. Some defended the dance routines — saying the moves were similar to what one would see at a hip-hop competition. The music? UDD officials responded that the songs with expletives were played accidentally.
I’m no dancer, so I cannot speak to the choreography. But, I do have a background in the performing arts, and it is crucial for any artist to consider the audience when putting together a performance. None of this — no matter the artistic merit — was appropriate for a Christmas parade. That’s why the Marching Knights weren’t blasting Megadeth tunes. And yes, I am thankful my kids were in the parade and did not see this performance.
Regardless, many in our community — including city officials at both Winter Garden and Ocoee and the Ocoee Lions Club — put in dozens of hours to organize these parades each year. And even more people create floats and don costumes to bring holiday cheer to our community. We should not let UDD’s questionable performance decisions overshadow the wonder these parades provide.
When you look back on the Christmas season, remember the parades for their fun, candy and sunshine. Remember the time with family and friends. Remember the lights and the Christmas Eve services. Remember the joy.
And from Lyric and Aria, remember this: What did the buffalo say to his son when he left for college?