Of the Keizertimes

Good things don’t often happen by accident – people make them happen.

And a parade is no different. The Keizer Iris Festival parade has become a “family project” for Steve and Melanie Pfaff.

Melanie has for years set the parade order, and she said there’s something new to learn each and every year.

“We try really hard to get sound spaced out, horses spaced out, and interesting floats spaced out so from the beginning to the end you have interesting things,” Melanie said.

This week she gave us some behind-the-scenes tips on how the Iris Festival parade is assembled.

• Horses are a staple of the Iris Festival parade, but come with strings attached.

“Horses are usually fairly sensitive to loud noises, so we don’t put loud noisy motors … or a sound system next to them,” Melanie said. “They don’t do real well with big trucks and diesel engines in front of them or following them directly.”

Horses also produce piles of poop, and aren’t exactly discreet about it. That’s why you’ll always have people shoveling it behind the horses – and another reason you’ll almost never see a marching band following directly behind horses.

“All the horse entrants are supposed to provide their own pooper-scoopers, and typically they’re really good at it,” she said. “But you’re always going to find some left …hopefully it’s been rolled over a couple of times before the bands come through.”

• Strike up the band: This year’s Iris Festival parade features seven bands – no small feat, considering the time of year. The school year is winding down, and marching band is more of an autumn activity; some bands may not have rehearsed their marching music in months.

So what do organizers do? First, they pay a stipend.

“And people know this parade happens now, so some of the schools make a concerted effort to be in this parade every year,” she said.

To keep music flowing throughout the day Melanie takes the number of total entrants and divides that by the number of bands, spacing them out as evenly as possible.

• First responders first: Ever wondered why police cars and fire trucks are always near the front of the Iris Parade?

Real life doesn’t stop during the parade – police still get called to accidents, fights and the everyday incidents they deal with. The fire department still gets medical calls and has to be ready for a fire at any time.

Parades are a labor-intensive time for police; someone has to block off all the roads.

With these duties in mind, Melanie said, they need to be able to start and finish the parade in as little time as possible.

“And the police have to be able to peel off the parade route if they need to,” Melanie said.

Others riding near the front are the dignitaries: Your mayors, legislators, congressmen (and women), pageant winners, grand marshals, city councilors and the like.

• Saving the best for last? Melanie says she’s never had anyone ask to be the last entry of the Iris Festival parade.

“But we have to have that – people who are looking good and very entertaining all the way to the back of the parade,” she said.

It’s also an unwritten rule that groups turning in applications past the deadline go towards the back. But Melanie tracks who is at the back of the parade each year to be sure one group isn’t always stuck at the end of the line.

• Rain is often a reality parade participants and organizers must contend with. So entrants building a float out of paper do so at their own risk.

“We feel bad for the folks who make their whole float out of paper … and it melts once it starts raining,” Melanie said. “I’ve made floats too, and we used materials that would be OK, rain or shine.”