Lights adorning their uniforms and instruments decorated for the season, the CSU Marching Band is an annual highlight in the 9NEWS Denver Parade of Lights. The parade starts at Civic Center Park and wends its way along a two-mile route through downtown Denver. Again this year, over 100,000 people lined the streets on a Friday night to watch the parade.
CAM the Ram moments before marching in the Parade of Lights on Friday, November 30, 2018. Photo by Kevin Mohatt, photo.kevinmohatt.com
Three former drum majors explain that the Band loves to perform in the Parade of Lights. Devon Aimes (B.S., ’14) recalls “the smiling faces, no matter what the weather.” He says the Band “feeds off the energy from all the people who line the streets.”
Luke Contreras (B.A., ’13) grew up in Colorado Springs: “The Parade of Lights always signaled the beginning of the holiday season,” so, it was “like a childhood dream come true” that he got to march in the parade during his years as a CSU undergraduate. He loved hearing “Go Rams” shouted out from the crowd as the Band marched by. “What could be better for a Ram sports fan,” he asks, “than seeing someone in a CU jacket clapping along with the Band’s music?”
Shawna Lemon (B.M., ’13) recalls being thrilled that not only CAM the Ram but also CSU president Tony Frank walked the parade route with the Band. She says the Parade is the largest crowd for which the CSU Marching Band performs; next closest is the 75,000 football fans at the Bronco’s stadium when the Band has performed at halftime. In addition, the parade crowd is different than football crowds; the parade “is a family affair, with children front and center, faces shining and hands clapping.”
The former drum majors also recount the time-consuming process of lighting the Band. They had to check 600 packages of lights to ensure each bulb was in working order. They also untangled wires, checked batteries, and attached the light strings to uniforms with safety pins. Finally, they inspected each of the 250 Band members for “wardrobe malfunctions.”
Colorado weather can vary dramatically on the last weekend in November. Some years the temperature at parade time was in the 50s; other years it was cold enough to freeze not only Band members but also their instruments. In 2013, the parade-time temperature was 5 degrees below zero. As the valve oil musicians use on moving parts of brass instruments freezes, they had to devise a home remedy to keep instruments working. Their solution? They mixed valve oil with “a clear liquid that does not freeze,” the identity of which remains a closely guarded secret.
Fort Collins gets a special treat on the night before the Parade of Lights when the Band performs a practice march around the University Center for the Arts. This year the Alumni Association provided alumni viewers with a free cup of coffee or hot chocolate from the Human Bean truck. As popular as those hot drinks were, however, nothing warms up CSU alumni like their Marching Band!