Santa Claus Parade


I did five things on Saturday that I have never done before:

1. Play a solid-state amplifier
2. Play on a moving flatbed trailer
3. Play in sub-zero temperatures
4. Play while wearing insulated gloves (with fingers exposed to the elements)
5. Play in a Santa Claus parade

We arrived at the Rogers Media float for 2:30pm to set up the equipment and to conduct a sound check. We had rented most of the equipment: sound system, drums, bass amp and guitar amp.

The temperature was hovering at around 0 Celsius although the wind chill was making it feel more like minus 10 Celsius.

Cold, cold, cold.

And the winds were really gusting. So much so that we had to use sandbags on the cymbal stands to prevent them from being blown over.

It took us about an hour to get ourselves ready for the main event. Matthew, our drummer, was fully protected from the bitterly cold temperatures. Josh, our bassist, had mastered a technique of playing the bass while wearing gloves. Rob, our vocalist was also well protected.

I had taken all reasonable precautions: thermal underwear, multiple layers of clothing, headgear. But to play a guitar, I had to expose my fingers and I had to limit the outerwear on my upper body to hold and reach the instrument.

I had no idea whether I could even play in such frigid weather.

After the first hour on the flatbed, we retreated to the warmth of our vehicle and waited until the first call. At 5pm we took our place on the flatbed. There we waited for about 40 minutes or so until our float began to move.

The temperature had fallen to minus 2 Celsius with a wind chill somewhere in the minus 12 to minus 15 range. I literally could not feel the guitar with my hands.

But somehow, as we progressed along the parade route, with thousands and thousands of people lining the streets, we started to forget about the cold. We played to the people and they were so supportive and encouraging. I had to dramatically simplify my playing but I think I hit the right chords at the right spots most of the time.

For the next couple of hours we had an incredible time.

Fortunately, I did not get frostbite on my hands.

And our float won the best commercial float of the parade.


2 replies
  1. Rob Haskell
    Rob Haskell says:

    Hi, richard, neat post: Just out of curiousity, did you rent a guitar as well as the other equipment, or use one of your own? I would have been afraid of finish checking given the cold you describe.

    • Richard Cleaver
      Richard Cleaver says:

      Hi Rob,

      I have a Squier Custom Vintage Telecaster that I use for outdoor events where there might be a lot of heat and humidity. I also used it for playing in this frigid cold 🙂

      The Squier CV Tele is a very playable guitar and, for about $350, I am not too worried if it gets damaged.


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