And with a rush of cold winter wind, it's Christmas parade season again. It's that time, out in the shop for hours at a time, decorating the carriage, all the lights on and loud music so I can get in the groove. Christmas lights, bells on Duke's harness, and family in the carriage.
Last year, for the Almonte Parade of Lights, my Mom rode up on the driver's seat with me, and it was such a thrill for me. I loved that she shared it with me, and that for her it was a trip back to her childhood, remembering that she loved to sit beside her Dad as he drove the horses. And I got hypothermia. Yeah, she still hasn't gotten over that, giving me mitts, fur hats, and recipes for rum based drinks (well maybe I dreamt that last part) In any case, I didn't care about the hypothermia, I love parades, and because that one is close to home it's a big favourite. And this year I have a few wardrobe additions................
Preparing for the parades is a long process, taking about three weeks. It involves planning and purchasing the artificial plant life (not just flowers) to fit with this year's theme. It's tax deductible ;-) Just in case anyone was concerned. The actual decorating takes anywhere from 16 hours to 16 days, depending on how many times I have to take it all off and start again.
More bells or fewer bells? Duke wears bells on his harness, just on his rump at the top of the tail. People ask me if it bothers him. Honestly he has never given me any indication that it bothers him, which he would not normally hesitate to do. And at his age (14) he has worn a lot of bells over the years.
Carriage maintenance - this is the time of year when we take a long hard look at work we need to do on the carriage. After the parades, it will be out of commission until the spring, so we are looking at it, noting if brake fluid needs topping up, if more grease is needed. We don't do this work before the parades, but our seasonal inspections certainly inform us if any touch ups need to be done before we go out to greet our public.
Cleaning. We vacuum rugs and seats regularly, but we spend extra time before parades. I don't suppose anyone would notice sand on the rugs from the roadside as we walk by, but it's a thing. You spend that much time getting it ready, it seems wrong for it not to be spotless.
Passengers - Each year, we plan our passenger load. Last year in Almonte was great, because not only was my Mom there, so was my niece, her husband, and their baby, and my daughter and my grandchildren. Going up the hill to the island we had to kick a few off, as poor Duke struggled a bit. The last thing we want is for him to struggle, not only because we don't want to take advantage of his willingness to do so, but because we cherish him. We don't want any pulled muscles or tendons. He's such a good boy, he doesn't deserve that.
This year, for the Help Santa Toy Parade in downtown Ottawa, once again we have Glass Slipper Princess Parties accompanying us . Cinderella will ride in the carriage, and the rest of the princesses with follow behind with their choreographed dance routine. I haven't figured out how to break it to Duke though. He loves parades so much, strolling along with his head held high to the sound of "pretty horse" and a million other terms of endearment. He's a sucker for affection and approval. Last year, however, he would just get to enjoy each wave of approval before a new one began, much louder than his own: "CINDERELLA!!!!!"
The other memory from last year was the weather. The day dawned grey but with the assurance from the weather forecaster that it would be 12C. So we wore one layer under our coats, driving gloves instead of mittens. You know the routine. I would like to find the weather forecaster who made that forecast and tell him my big fat foot. It was about 2C with a windchill of -12C. And guess what? Yep, hypothermia.
And this year, my dad is coming to visit from Winnipeg, and he will be riding on the drivers seat with me. I know he will have a blast and that he will be better dressed than me and he will love the experience.
The Help Santa Toy Parade begins November 18 at 10:30 at City hall, runs down Laurier to Bank Street, and ends at TD Place. Because there is no parking at TD place, please plan to park elsewhere. As with previous years, the firefighters will be out taking donations.
The Almonte Parade of Lights is the first Sunday in December, which this year is Dec 3. The parade starts at five pm.
We would love it if you would come out and support us for these events. Oh - and do dress warmly.