WHAT IT’S LIKE TO PUT AN OLD CAR INTO A CHRISTMAS PARADE

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True confession: I was well into the advanced stages of adulthood before I even attended a Christmas parade and was immediately sold on the concept from a spectator point of view.

My first Christmas parade as a spectator took place 10 years ago when my sister Shirley convinced me to attend the Sylvan Lake event in Alberta Canada.

Since then, I have attended every Sylvan Lake Christmas parade and enjoyed every minute of each of them–even the ones where very cold weather kept the brass monkeys inside and sheltered in place with a death grip on a hot drink. Fortunately, enough of the annual Sylvan parades, including this year’s edition, have been balmy by comparison to the nasty years. I am not sure why this year’s parade was mild, but I am pretty sure no human sacrifices were made to appease the weather gods.

Whatever the reason, I chose an excellent year to graduate from spectator to participant in the 2023 Sylvan Lake Christmas parade because I wanted to use MyStarCollectorCar’s 1963 Belvedere in it.

The ’63 Plymouth has proven to be an incredibly reliable performer over the past 8 years and is no stranger to brutal winter weather here in the frozen wastelands, but the old war pony performs better in cool weather.

I contacted the Sylvan Lake Christmas parade organizer (Denise Papineau) and became an official participant a few weeks ago, so a game plan became necessary. Initially, I wanted to get creative and make some MyStarCollectorCar door signs, but glow-in-the-dark paint has a shorter lifespan than one-night stand romances, so magnetic door signs replaced them.

The door signs were to be accompanied by Christmas lights on the ’63 Plymouth so I needed a power source for the lights. I assumed an inverter was designed to boost the power from a 12-volt cigarette lighter (a very common feature in 60-year-old cars) into enough juice to light up several strings of Christmas bulbs on the car.

Unfortunately, the sheer number of lights was a bridge too far for a 98 lb. weakling inverter, so the lit portion extended to about 20 bulbs and then the entire system flickered to a quick death in less than 15 minutes. Consequently, I brought in the big guns and used a small gas-powered generator to light up the large herd of Christmas bulbs.

1963 Plymouths are old school and made of metal, so I was able to secure the Christmas lights with magnetic clips and hooks while waiting for the start of the parade.

My first time as a Christmas parade participant was nothing short of spectacular because I was able to view the large crowd on onlookers through the windshield of a ’63 Plymouth. It was amazing to see the entire parade from that vantage point and witness the excitement of the crowd-particularly the little kids.

I am certain most of them had never seen an old car that was new when their grandparents were kids (or possibly not even born yet), so the sight of the ’63 Plymouth floored them in a big way. They yelled and screamed their surprise and approval along the entire route, undoubtedly warming up their lungs for Santa Claus at the end of the parade.

It was a rock star moment for the old ’63 and it won’t be the last for me and the Sylvan Lake Christmas parade. The onlookers really made the entire experience a ton of fun, so thanks Denise and the rest of the parade crew for a great time.

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section. 

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