We Love a Good Parade
July 11, 2018
Sarah Roberts knew she had to volunteer. When she saw the posting asking for help handling Maritz’ sponsored balloon in this year’s America’s Birthday Parade, and while her cousin would be in town from England, she thought “what better way to experience and celebrate the 4th of July?”
The project manager for Maritz IT Services says her cousin Sam and husband, Jeff, agreed to help because they thought it would be fun and a very unusual, chance-of-a-lifetime way to celebrate the holiday.
“She was so excited when I asked her if she would be interested,” Sarah said of Sam. “It was her first time being here on Independence Day, and she said she couldn’t think of a better way to get involved and experience the day. The irony that we were celebrating our independence from her country wasn’t lost on us, and we did have a little laugh about that.”
For the past 15 years, Maritz has sponsored a balloon in America’s Birthday Parade (formerly known as the VP Parade) in St. Louis. In years past, you might have seen our people securing the American eagle. This year, we took on a new beast: the golden dragon, which made its inaugural appearance in this year’s parade. The dragon is made of nylon and took three months to build.
One of the parade’s showpiece balloons, the shiny dragon draws attention wherever it floats. It is 50 feet long, 30 feet tall, holds 45 cubic feet of helium and requires 30 handlers for the duration of the parade route. As balloon handlers, Maritz employees and their families are responsible for making sure the balloon stays afloat, doesn’t wander from the middle of the road and avoids hitting anything, including anything hanging from above. They also wear matching outfits featuring Maritz’ official employee community service shirt.
“Maritz does a great deal for the community, most of which goes unseen by the masses,” said Mark Alspaw, vice president of real estate and property services for Maritz. “This is an opportunity to demonstrate Maritz pride in our community visually.”
Mark brought his daughter and one of her friends to volunteer for the parade.
“My part was easy,” Mark said. “They gave me a rope and said ‘hold it,’ then told me to walk. We would occasionally need to stop and wait. When that happened, I often handed my rope across the fencing to the nearest child, who was usually thrilled to hold the Golden Dragon. The smiles on those children’s and their parents’ faces were priceless.”
Many Maritz employees have been bringing their families to volunteer with the Maritz-sponsored balloon for years. Mandi Sullivan, a global travel specialist in Maritz Travel, says this year was her family’s third time volunteering for the parade with Maritz. She and her husband held the balloon, their daughter carried the Maritz banner and their son and his girlfriend carried battery power packs and cords.
Karen Staten’s grandson Danny also helped hold the Maritz banner. Karen, senior director of Human Resources Services for Maritz, brought her son, daughter and two grandchildren to volunteer.
“The grandkids love to participate,” Karen said. “All their friends see them on TV.”
Cara McVey’s daughter, Lauren, also likes to participate.
“We started the first year Lauren was old enough to hold the strings and it has become an annual tradition for us,” said McVey, operations data manager for Maritz Motivation Solutions.