Everyone at a parade is a part of the action, but it is usually clear who is actually on parade and who is not. This clear distinction makes parades a great entry point for considering situated engagement. All of the veteran teams with sites featured here could easily throw together outreach tables at the end of a parade route, but actually joining a parade was a very new experience. Creatively putting “parade technology” to use involves so much more than just hitching up a trailer for a parade float. For science outreach, it means rethinking everything from basic messaging, to who shows up, to overall goals and expectations. And it sure is worth it. Hear why from the teams and observers involved in three Science In Vivo sites: St. Pete Pride Parade, DragonCon Parade, and the Flagstaff Fourth of July Parade. The audio highlights here are from final critiques in 2019 and a group category conversation in 2021.
The Pride Parade in St. Petersburg is billed as Florida's largest, often drawing a crowd of 90,000. The parade begins at dusk, turning the streets of St. Pete into a massive, moving, nighttime celebration. The following day there is a large, family-friendly Pride festival. For several years, the organizers of the St. Pete Science Festival brought a table to the day-time festival, to hand out promotional materials and share some hands-on activities. In 2019 they joined the parade with their own colorful parade float. The float had a science of rainbows theme, was packed with dozens of volunteers dancing to a DJ's "science-themed club music," and was surrounded by a team on foot handing out thousands of diffraction glasses to the cheering crowd (these glasses make every light source look like a rainbow).
The Fourth of July Parade in Flagstaff, Arizona is one of the largest events in the region, often drawing crowds of more than 20,000 to a city of some 70,000 people. The parade and surrounding events have brought together communities across Northern Arizona for decades. Similarly, the Flagstaff Festival of Science has celebrated annually since 1990. After nearly thirty years of being separate tentpole events for Flagstaff, the Festival hit upon the idea of joining in as part of the parade. In 2019 the Festival teamed up with the CoCoRAS, a youth robotics club, to march in the parade and pay tribute to Flagstaff’s role in U.S. moon landings.
Part fantasy convention, part SciFi convention, part everything else, DragonCon has become one of the biggest gatherings of its kind, drawing attendees to Atlanta from around the world. The convention even includes a busy science track of its own, with panels on scientific research and science communication. Knowing that this annual event is too big to miss, the Atlanta Science Festival has had a presence at DragonCon for years, taking over a busy hallway for a family-friendly, hands-on science zone for two days. In 2019 the team started looking for a way to join in and participate in an essential aspect of DragonCon, and the convention’s big public parade was the obvious first choice. This parade empties out of the convention and onto the streets of Atlanta, drawing huge local crowds and extensive television coverage. This site is included in two Science In Vivo categories: Science on Parade, and Con_Science.