by Terry Rogers
On Wednesday, October 16 at 6:30 PM, the Milford Community Parade will kick off at the former Milford Middle School, travel down Walnut Street and end at Milford High School. This year’s theme is “Comic Books Come to Life.”
“People begin roping off their seating area early in the morning of the day of the parade, Charles Gray, chairman of the event, said. “Businesses begin weeks ahead preparing for the thousands of people who will be in downtown from 4 PM on. This is truly a community event with people who live in the Milford area inviting guests from out of town to come see the parade.”
The parade includes a wide range of displays. Those along the parade route will see marching bands, fire trucks, decorated vehicles, equestrian groups and people marching in costume. Floats are some of the most popular entries with people looking forward to seeing the creativity that goes into creating floats that fit the theme of the parade each year.
“Every year, 25 or more groups, families and businesses enter the parade and build a float,” Gray said. “A float is a visual and sometimes audio message of importance to the organization, family or business. The design can be very complex or very simple.”
Gray explained that a float begins with the group brainstorming the theme which the committee tries to keep as a simple message to make it easier on the entrants. Most organizations have a float committee who works out the logistics, creativity, construction and who will ride on the float. Once that is determined, the idea is put on paper before the fun part of building the float begins. Gray pointed out that the parade is rain or shine, so it is important to use designs that will withstand wind, rain and cold.
“The group then gathers materials to put their creative idea together,” Gray said. “A lot of those who put floats together for the Community Parade use recycled products, things they have either used on previous floats or things committee members already have available that will fit the theme. The amount of hours it takes to put a float together is truly based on how elaborate the float design is. Keep it simple so the construction is fast and volunteers don’t get overwhelmed. Lighting is a great addition as the twinkling lights catch the eye of those watching.”
The first parade was established by then-Mayor Ed Evans during World War II as a way to unite the community. After several years, the parade went into hiatus and was redeveloped over 25 years ago by James Gray who felt Milford needed an event that would be fun for all ages. The Gray family has been an integral part of the parade ever since with all of James and Mary Jo’s children serving in some capacity over the years.
“We called it the Halloween parade for many years,” Gray explained. “We used to do interviews on the radio and would often get calls from those who did not approve of Halloween or had religious objections to the holiday that they didn’t like that it was called a Halloween parade. The committee made the decision to begin calling it the Milford Community Parade in order to make it more inclusive, but I still have people asking me about the “Halloween parade” all year.”
Many years ago, those riding floats were able to toss candy to people sitting along the route but that is no longer permitted during the Milford Community Parade.
“Throwing candy is wonderful, but over the years, throwing or passing out items has become a liability,” Gray said. “We saw a video where candy was thrown from a float and a child ran out in the street to get it. The child was almost run over by a monster truck riding behind the float. Thank goodness the truck was able to stop and the child was not injured. From that point on, we have not allowed throwing or distributing items from parade participants.”
Entries are judged and awarded prizes in several categories. There are three judging stands placed along Walnut Street. This year’s judges will be placed at City Hall, the Milford Church of God and the Milford Plant and Garden Center. Each has a Forever Media radio station Master of Ceremonies, portable restrooms and a vendor. Last year, the winner of the Outstanding Spirit Award was The Rookery North with their “Thriller” themed float. There are also vendors located throughout the downtown area and most stores remain open until 7 PM or later.
The entire parade committee consists of volunteers and partners with both the City of Milford Police Department as well as DelDOT to create a safe atmosphere for all ages. Walnut Street is closed from Milford High School to Seabury Avenue with detours posted for motorists. Parking is not permitted on Walnut Street after 5 PM on Wednesday as well.
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