OSKALOOSA— Have you ever seen a band play in a snow globe before?
Terry DeJong, director of athletic bands at William Penn University came up with a very unique, magical way of doing just that for the Oskaloosa Main Street Lighted Christmas Parade.
The WPU Athletic Bands have been participating in the Lighted Christmas Parade since the program was formed.
DeJong said he had been thinking outside the box for the Christmas parade
“To be more unique and innovative for what we can do to fit with the Parade’s themes adding costumes and building floats. It adds more of a fun element for our members,” he said. “Winter parades in a cold environment are not always easy with the elements and especially temperatures.”
DeJong brought back a memory from the 2013 Lighted Christmas parade when he said he didn’t know the exact temperature; however, it was well below freezing with a wind chill that caused all the brass instruments to freeze.
“None of our brass, nor the high school’s brass were able to play for the parade. Being in drumlines in my earlier years, I find drummers continue to be able to play in colder weather during parades, as they continuously keep the blood flowing in the hands and fingers,” he said. “Guard members also create warmth by keeping physically active, yet the horns and winds fingers can become numb in freezing temperatures as they cannot wear thick gloves while playing their instruments.”
DeJong said this is what sparked a dream of mine to create a float where we could play inside.
“Thinking ‘Christmas,’ a giant snow globe vision appeared in my head, yet with no idea how it could be created,” he said.
He wanted a playing environment that would be warm enough to play comfortably. To make this float possible, it took a lot of time, effort and planning.
“For a few years we continued with floats and costumes and it took me about four more years to figure this out,” DeJong said. “I looked online for giant snow globes, yet all were too small or too expensive.”
He said he even looked up various floats but found nothing like this idea, so he reached out to some Facebook friends for ideas. In the late summer of 2018, he figured out how to make it.
DeJong said he went to a store, looking for plastic materials and found exactly what would work.
“We already had a trailer platform for our marching band which we’ve used on the field as a stage, and for our parade floats,” he said. “My family has a warehouse as a location where I could design and construct, so it began.”
As football season came to a close in 2018, DeJong said, and as the bands coordinated with WPU Student Government for the parade that year, a few people got together and assembled the frame for the globe with 1/4-inch steel rod.
“I was able to consistently bend the round frame with a home-made crank bender. In the design, we had to consider fresh air for breathing, so we left a 6-inch gap at the bottom of the globe yet concealed with decorations and lights. Once the frame was assembled onto the float platform, we began to tape on the plastic window sheeting,” he said. “Not knowing if the plastic sheeting would restrict the sound from the band, in 2018, I placed a couple mic’s and has some speakers mounted underneath the stage. Staging and warming up for that parade in 2018, everything sounded great, and I didn’t realize until after the parade that I never turned on the sound system. Guess we didn’t need it, so this year, we didn’t include it.”
DeJong said his favorite part of making this float was being very unique.
“I have never seen a band play in a snow globe before. It also created a warmer environment regardless of the temperature outside. We had a small heater inside, and as heat rises, it stays within. With all the bodies and breathing while playing, I would say it was about 50 degrees by the end of the parade inside.”
In 2018, the WPU Athletic Band had more of a jazz combo playing various arrangements, with the drumline marching on the street. This year they included some of the drumline members on the stage and played a march medley. There were 23 members on the float playing in the warm environment.
They played a medley of marches arranged by Andy Clark at Barnhouse Music titled “Christmas Greetings.” DeJong said it was really fun hearing children and others singing along when they got to “Jingle Bells.”
The WPU Athletic Band entered under the music category of and won “Most Outstanding Music”.
DeJong said, “Because of this, our float wasn’t up for getting an award, however, this is so much fun and has helped get us so much exposure for our program and being used in our promotions with recruiting.”
When asked if he plans on using the same idea next year he said he would still like to use the snow globe float as it is very unique.
“I chuckle when people said they are in a bubble, and I correct, ‘it’s a snow globe.’ However, we are in a big push to build our numbers in the marching band at Penn. I want to include all of the members next year which would extend more than just the snow globe.”
DeJong said he will continue to think “out of the box.”
“Who knows what we’ll come up for next year,” he said.
This lighted Christmas Parade had been a great event for the Athletic Bands at Penn to participate in, DeJong said, and to create some great exposure of what the program is about: quality and fun.
“Marching band plays for football, pep band plays for basketball, and that group has gained much respect and recognition over the years at the NAIA National Tournaments, and our winter drumline and guard programs continue to entertain at various BB halftimes,” he said. “William Penn has continued some massive growth with facilities and programs over the last ten-plus years. I’d like to extend to ask that our community members to help promote our athletic bands and fine arts opportunities here at Penn and with great scholarships to participate to help build those areas. This would have benefits to WPU and our community respectively.”