CHILDREN’S HOLIDAY PARADE: IT’S TELEVISED!

24 Dec

WHO: America’s Children Holiday Parade
WHAT: Float Holder
WHERE: Oakland
HOW MUCH: $15/hour
WHY: Money

Christopher the Penguin is a medium-sized balloon float. Due to his rotund shape, he is easier to handle than other balloons with more appendages.

STORY: This was the first job I got from awe-inspiring “Gigs” section on Craigslist. The post was advertised as “Float Holder” and I was hired via email. The day of the parade, I walked just a few blocks to downtown Oakland, where I increasingly suspected something was amiss: van-full of children holding bronze instruments; bus-full of baton-waving teenagers; gymnasium teeming with elves and old people wearing candy-striped T-shirts. Ohhhhhh-kay.

After wandering around for half an hour, I finally found the elusive “woman in the purple shirt” we were instructed to meet. We were clothed with our own purple T, given protective gloves, and led outside where we met (ta da!) Christopher the Penguin!

Our job, if we were so inclined to accept, would be to guide Christopher down seven blocks in downtown Oakland on behalf of a children’s organic food company. The company also had its own mascot, Mr. Mashup, which was basically a squeeze bottle with a rainbow on it.

Fast forward 2.5 hours, the purple-shirted float holders and I are hanging onto Christopher via rope, waiting for our turn to walk the strip. We are number 156 in line. Another 30 and we make it to the front. Immediately, a lanky, frizzy-haired woman greets us with a shrill “LOOK HAPPY!” And it becomes very clear very quickly, this woman don’t play. She growls and circles us, looks us up and down, makes us spin the penguin around and around. … Soon enough she approaches me, snatches the rope out of my hand and yells, “Higher! Higher! This is a balloon people. It’s supposed to float high!”


See Christopher @ 38:53

After the intense drill practice, we were released onto Broadway Street, led by a few designated “wavers” and of course, Mr. Mashup. The street itself was ashy and overcast, but more importantly, it was lined on both sides by eager-eyed children, peering at us confused and hungry for entertainment. “Come on guys, everyone smile, you’re on TV!” someone yelled. I happened to be holding the rope attached to Christopher’s frontal area, so every time we approached a low-hanging branch or streetlight, Christopher would be unceremoniously lowered onto us and I would be crushed under Christopher’s latex crotch. I’m so happy this is going to be televised.

Preceded by the ever-popular Snoopy and followed by Clifford the Big Red Dog, Christopher wasn’t exactly the most popular attraction in the parade. Still, it was kind of amazing to see so many children in downtown Oakland. For whatever reason, all the adults seemed to be elsewhere, or camouflaged in the background, and it was as if kids had taken over the street—the same strip that had been home to Occupy Oakland and its tumultuous events just weeks prior. Afterwards, we were led to a deflating station near Lake Merritt, where I chuckled to myself about the past 4 hours. Never had I seen so many children in one place at one time, and no less in downtown Oakland. It appeared that as long as Garfield, Strawberry Shortcake, and other outdated, recycled mascots from the 80s were marching down Broadway, the children were going to have their run of the town. And this shit was going to be televised too. Well done, children of Oakland. Well done.


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