IllumiNations wasn't the only Orlando tradition to come an end this week. Yesterday, the organizers of Orlando's annual Citrus Parade announced that they will not continue with parade, after a 39-year run.
Called by many as the Citrus Bowl Parade because it ran as part of the lead-up to the city's annual New Year's Day college football game, the Citrus Parade was the reason my family moved to Orlando, which led me to eventually starting this website. My freshman year in college, my old high school's marching band was invited to march in the parade. Since my sister was a member of the band's flag corps, my parents followed the band down from Indianapolis to Orlando to see the parade.
And like countless Midwesterners before them, they decided that winter in Orlando knocked the snot out of winter in the Midwest. With plenty of jobs available in the growing Central Florida market, they decided to make the move — which they did the following autumn.
(Without telling me for a month... but that's a whole 'nother story.)
The next summer, after turning down a seasonal job with the local parks and recreation department back in Indiana (I could have worked for Leslie Knope!), I joined the family down in Orlando and applied for a summer job at Walt Disney World.
Would any of this happened without the Orlando Citrus Parade? Probably not.
That said, parades such as Orlando's no longer enjoy the popular appeal that they did many years ago. Orlando's parade especially suffered with several amazing holiday parades available at the wildly popular theme parks just down I-4. Orlando simply didn't need a one-off bowl game parade to drive tourism anymore.
These days, I live in the hometown of the biggest bowl game parade in the nation — Pasadena, California, where the Tournament of Roses Parade plays in front of tens of thousands of visitors and on multiple TV networks every year. Those TV deals are key in maintaining the Rose Parade's viability, as they provide the national and international exposure that potential float sponsors demand.
Like the Citrus Parade, the Rose Parade was founded to show off a warm-weather destination to football fans in the hopes that it would entice some of them to visit, if not move. But also like with Central Florida, Southern California long ago outgrew the need for such gimmicks. The Rose Parade instead became a platform to promote the entertainment and garden industries, which has helped ensure its appeal. But even the Rose Parade faces the challenge of trying to make a 19th-century entertainment format appeal to 21st-century audiences.
A great attraction needs much more than static floats and high school marching bands. It's no wonder that fewer and fewer bowl committees are seeing the return on the type of investment that an organization such as the Tournament of Roses has to make to stay relevant.
Anyway, I'm happy that the Citrus Parade was there when it was... and that it helped bring my family to Orlando. Someone pour out a bottle of orange juice for the Citrus Parade.Tweet
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