Friday, October 28th, 2016

No Merry Christmas in parade


Waukesha Freeman Page A10, Opinion 11/27/2013


No Merry Christmas in parade

Too much drama for Girl Scouts

It was cold at Sunday’s Waukesha Christmas Parade, but that’s not what is bothering two Girl Scout leaders. Just prior to the parade start, parade organizers tried squeezing them for an additional $100 each.

This was the first year the Christmas Parade was run by the City of Waukesha Chamber of Commerce.To the casual observer, the parade was run smoothly. Bands and floats marched by. Kids filled their bags with candy. Santa and Mrs. Claus weaved their way through Waukesha’s streets in record time.

But not everything was “merry Christmas” behind the scenes. Because the Chamber of Commerce did not have the budget to run the parade, they actually charged community groups $25 to participate. You may have noticed a few of them were missing from the parade.

Some groups continued on. Building a parade float and walking in the parade is a tradition with them. For two Girl Scout troops it meant selling more than a few extra boxes of cookies, but the girls love being in the parade.

Regular paradegoers know to bring a little extra pocket change for the Girl Scouts. They collect every year for the Christmas Clearing Council.

On Saturday, the day before the parade, one of the Girl Scout leaders for Troop 2616 was told that they needed a permit in order to solicit change from the crowd. They were told this even though Girl Scouts Troop 4184 had put on their application they were collecting money for charity. The chamber representative did not have an explanation of where the troop was supposed to acquire the permit on a Saturday.

So much for the Season of Giving.

When the floats were lining up on Whiterock Avenue, a parade organizer noticed that the Girl Scout floats were being pulled by trucks that were donated by local businesses. The chamber representative told the Girl Scout leaders that they either had to cover up the business signs on the trucks or pay an additional $100 to participate in the parade as a commercial entrant.

As someone who has participated in the building of a number of floats for Christmas parades, I can say from firsthand experience that the businesses loaning the use of their trucks are giving far more than the small amount of advertising they are receiving.

One of the businesses reluctantly allowed the girls to tape signs over his business logos, but the other driver had a new truck and was understandably upset at the last-minute shakedown.

Meanwhile, the Scout leaders did their best to try to shield the young girls in their charge from all the drama. The girls had such fun building the parade floats, and the Chamber of Commerce was doing everything it could to take the fun out of the day.

Then the parade started. The Girl Scouts were supposed to follow a Waukesha County Recycling float but were stuck only following the Recycle Raccoon.

(Don’t ask.) This meant that there was – shudder – a gap in front of the Girl Scouts in the parade route.

According to the Scout leader I spoke with, parade organizers rudely shouted at the girls to walk faster all down the mile-long parade route.

Since Troop 4184 was not notified of the new rule about collecting for charity, they decided to go ahead and collect money anyway once the parade started. It was hard to do while a parade organizer shouted at the girls to speed things up. It also made a miserable time for the girls even more miserable.

The Scouts can stand the cold. They have every year. But the parade organizers did everything they could to make the Girl Scouts feel unwelcome.

This will probably be the last year the Girl Scouts participate in the parade. As one of the Scout leaders told me, “It’s just too much drama for a bunch of little girls trying to do something for the community.”

A call to the Chamber of Commerce and an email to their Facebook page were not returned on Monday, so we may never know what prompted the last-minute squeeze of a bunch of little girls.

But the behavior of the chamber reminds us there is another word for “squeeze.” It’s “Scrooge.” Bah humbug.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at m and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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