Five years ago, Corey and Dee Chestnut of Cedar Rapids met on a blind date at the city’s Holiday DeLight Parade. But how would they find each other in the crowd? By dressing as Waldo, the storybook character who hides in plain sight in a candy cane-striped shirt and stocking cap.
It worked. They found each other that night during pre-parade festivities in Greene Square.
“We got to that park first, and I looked across field, and of course, I saw him right away,” Dee Chestnut said.
Love at first sight Dec. 1, 2012, turned into a proposal on Easter, April 1, 2013, and their marriage in a hot-air balloon July 19, 2013.
And for every Holiday DeLight parade, they break out their Waldo costumes and hide in the crowd, occasionally popping into the fray for a photo. The “Where’s Waldo Couple” became a “Where’s Waldo Family” with the addition of daughter Magnolia, now 2 and a half years old.
To mark their five-year “meet-iversary,” the Chestnut trio — plus another baby on the way — is moving from the sidewalks to the streets. About a dozen friends and family will join them as a “Where’s Waldo” walking entry for the lighted parade, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
The 34th annual event — featuring floats, Santa, marching bands and walking units festooned with lights — marks several firsts this year. The date has moved from the first- to second Saturday of December and the downtown route has been extended to First Street SE.
Altering the usual downtown route is a safety move that creates more space for the floats and for the spectators, said Melissa McCarville, communications manager for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, the organization presenting the parade. Last year, a child was injured when part of a float broke off after striking a street lamp along Second Street. First Street SE is wider, allowing “easier access for larger floats,” McCarville said.
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“Safety is our number one priority,” she added. “Police and fire will be on hand as they normally are.” And on the parts of Second Avenue where new medians have been installed, volunteers will help guide the floats and assist with crowd control for safe passage. About 50 volunteers are onboard for the parade, but McCarville said more are welcome. Sign-up details are posted online under the Events tab at www.cedarrapids.org
In another major move, the daylong Fire & Ice Festival, which debuted in 2005, has melted into multiple events spaced over several weekends.
“One of our goals has been to work more collaboratively with our other core districts and with the city, of course,” McCarville said.
“Last year, we noticed that almost everything for the holidays in this city happened on the exact same day the first weekend in December. We made a concerted effort to work with everyone ... so that we could spread the holiday love around throughout the month,” she said.
The city moved its tree-lighting ceremony to Nov. 26 — Small Business Saturday — which helped kick off the holiday shopping season, McCarville noted. Czech Village and the NewBo District launched their signature holiday events last weekend, including Deck the District festivities, A Very Cherry Holiday open house at the historic Cherry Building and the Old World Christmas Market at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.
McCarville said moving the parade to this weekend helps “spread out everything so people don’t have to pick and choose — they can hit everything if they like.”
She expects the parade to be over by or before 7 p.m., in time for people to head inside the Paramount Theatre to see “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at 7:30 p.m. Walt Strony will be at the Mighty Wurlitzer organ to provide music for the silent film. General admission tickets are $13 at the Paramount Ticket Office.
Temperatures are predicted to top out around 28 degrees Saturday, so McCarville said spectators should bundle up and bring blankets, chairs and bags to collect candy handed out by parade participants.
“We want everyone to have a good time, stay safe and stay warm,” she said.
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IF YOU GO
l What: Holiday DeLight Parade
l Where: Downtown Cedar Rapids
l When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday (12/9)
l Route: Second and Third avenues, between Sixth and First streets, ending by Greene Square
l Street closing: 4:30 p.m. Saturday along the parade route
l Parking: Downtown ramps, side streets off the parade route
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l To volunteer: Link at www.cedarrapids.org/events/holiday-delight-parade