“I love a parade, the tramping of feet,
I love every beat I hear of a drum.
I love a parade, when I hear a band
I just want to stand and cheer as they come.”
-Victor Arden and Phil Ohman-
WRAL loves parades. We excel at covering parades. In fact, a friend posted the following comment on my Facebook page after the Veteran’s Day Parade in Fayetteville, “Remote productions are something you all have excelled in for decades. Looking forward to the Raleigh Christmas Parade! That is a broadcast masterpiece for you all!” The writer of that comment used to work for the competition!
Typically it is the network that covers large, staged events. Local stations rarely venture into that broadcast arena. Well, WRAL has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. From the very beginning we have been covering special events ranging from bowling tournaments to football games to telethons to being the first local station in the nation to cover an international event via satellite. That special was the 400th Anniversary of the Plymouth Voyages from England to America, and yes there was a parade. Then there was the magnum opus of all parade coverage; the nautical procession of Tall Ships in Beaufort, North Carolina in 2006. Parades are right up our broadcasting alley!
The Raleigh Christmas Parade is an event we look forward to covering every year. It is a true demonstration of teamwork and technology. The planning starts months ahead of time and the pace quickens a few weeks prior to the event.
The day before the parade tightens the schedule to an hourly to-do list. This is when the engineering and operation crews do the real heavy lifting work. The day includes setting up phone lines, satellite testing, fiber testing, cable runs, camera tripods set-up, camera checks, audio/communication tests, barricades set in place, bleachers/grandstand setup, the lift for the overhead camera shots, etc.
The broadcast day starts at “zero dark thirty” or 5:30 AM and then we hit the air live at 10:00. The morning starts with crew calls for operations and engineering. Thankfully they are provided with a catered breakfast to fuel them for the morning. Hot coffee helps to keep the fingers nimble if the weather is cold, and it usually is. There are several quick meetings, final tests, rehearsals, time checks and then the countdown to air.
I remember having the honor of directing the Raleigh Christmas Parade in 1986 with Peter Anlyan serving as producer. WRAL-TV News Anchor John Hudson and Public Affairs Director Waltye Rasulala served as co-hosts. The late Al Dunbar and Mike Upchurch supervised the engineering set-up in the field. Leesa Moore was the operations crew supervisor. Drew McCarthy was on audio and Tripp Nichols served as my technical director. We operated out of the infamous remote truck called Unit Zero. The graphics were integrated through control room 2 at the station. The weather was sunny, but as usual it was very cold.
Back then, as it is now, the production folks see the parade as a time to be creative with their camera shots and have fun. In this environment they are not confined to the pre-set shots of robotic cameras as in a newscast. The parade broadcast is all about giving viewers a front row seat to all the action. We can make viewers feel like they are marching down the parade route side-by-side with a band member. The held-held camera in the hands of talented photographer, who can shoot and walk backwards at the same time, can make that happen. Other shots can make the viewers feel like they are at street level snuggled side–by-side with others in an excited crowd watching each festive float cruise right by them. The crane/lift camera perched high above the street gives the folks a bird’s eye view of the enormity of this festive, fun event.
Every monitor in the production truck displays camera shots of twirling batons, sequin costumes, brass instruments, colorful floats, and children perched on their parent’s shoulders. The audio speakers pound out drum beats, kids squealing, sirens, bells and whistles. Seeing all the children smiling from ear to ear makes the cold melt away. All too soon Santa and his sleigh appear to signal the end of the parade.
This year, Randy Mews will produce the 41st telecast of the Raleigh Christmas Parade with Mick Evans and Keyetta Mangum serving as directors. Bill Leslie and Renee Chou will co-host the broadcast with Lynda Loveland serving as street-side reporter. Fifty three people will be listed on the credits. The UNC-TV production truck will serve as the control room and the program will be broadcast statewide on UNC-EX and on WRAL-TV as well as streamed live WRAL.com.
My Facebook friend got it right! “Remote productions are something you all have excelled in for decades. Looking forward to the Raleigh Christmas Parade! That is a broadcast masterpiece for you all!”
Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story & these photos. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.