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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

My life as Jack Frost

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

For a few hours Saturday, I was Jack Frost.

In other words, the epitome of cool.

Frosty. Chilly. Cold. Cool. Get it?

Several talented Times-Gazette staff members spent part of Saturday afternoon transforming me into ... well, you had to be there.

And a lot of you were there -- along the Christmas parade route -- as our float came by.

I knew a change was coming when circulation employee Jamie Ovick showed off the sport coat I'd be wearing. The silver speckles and designs she and advertising representative Beth Peissig applied turned the coat into something fit for the Grand Ole Opry stage.

But that was just the beginning. Next came the hair.

We first talked about a hat and/or wig -- imagine, me with lots of hair atop my head again! But eventually Jamie decided to spike my hair and turn it whiteish-gray.

"Don't touch your hair," and, at one point, "Close your eyes," Jamie said as she combed and formed my hair into stiff gray spikes. I followed Jamie's instructions to the letter, imagining the stiff spikes breaking off and leaving me near-hairless. She and Beth considered makeup and graying my eyebrows, but I drew the line there, fearing specks flaking into my contact lenses.

After the finishing touches were applied, with editorial assistant Jaime Welsh grinning her approval, it was off to the newly-finished float and two hours of standing around in the cold before the parade's start.

I knew Jamie and Beth had done well when some teenagers, including some high school guys with hair that parents probably wince at, walked by, pointed at my hair and said, "Cool!" Others passing by on foot commented positively. And city editor John Carney's nephew asked, "Is that the real Jack Frost?"

So our group stood around eating, drinking hot chocolate, and trying to stay warm while watching warm Bedford County Workhouse inmates being served dinner. No, we didn't particularly want to join the crowd inside.

I was well insulated. Thermal underwear. Thermal socks atop athletic socks. Jogging pants and blue jeans. A heavy sweatshirt and hunting jacket with battery-powered warmers underneath a dress shirt and the speckled jacket. Thick gloves and hand warmers. Turns out I wasn't cold at all -- even skipped the gloves -- as temperatures were around 35 degrees.

Finally things began moving, and I got to experience a parade from the inside out. Jamie, Beth, and John rode in the back of the truck pulling us along while I was solo (but carrying on a running conversation) on the float.

The friendliness of the crowds impressed me. "Merry Christmas," so many of you told us. It was much appreciated, and Merry Christmas back to y'all.

We carried a stash of candy for the kids (and a few adults) and free Sunday newspapers to throw out.

About that candy

At times it looked more like Halloween, with a surprising number of children holding out bags. I heard one yell, "Trick or treat!" Seriously. Wouldn't it be cool if kids along the route dressed up in Christmas costumes?

If kids even looked like they wanted candy, we threw it. I think I actually hit their bags in a few cases.

A few adult women got candy too, just because, well, Jack Frost the Candyman has an eye for the ladies ... and just because the Candyman can.

I also discovered stone-faced people can be tricked into waving if you wave at them first. It became sort of a game with me to see if I could get those people to respond.

And I made sure anyone with video cameras or camera phones -- they were all over the place got a wave.

Hello, also, to the large number of you who greeted me as "Dave" or "David" instead of "Jack." You can only disguise someone to a certain point.

The crowd thinned noticeably past Celebration Drive. Remember this for next year: There's plenty of parking space on Madison Street beyond Bethany Lane.

Near the route's end, I wondered about what kind of reaction I'd get if I walked, disguise and all, into the nearby Pop-A-Top bar. I chose not to try it.

Before the parade, some of us fantasized about a float next year with someone -- me, maybe -- being suspended from wires and appearing to be flying through the air. That just might be doable, and I like the thought if I could handle being suspended for an hour or longer.

Maybe I'll be there. Or maybe not. I've begun running, and one of my goals for 2009 is to become fast enough to compete in 5K events. I wanted to do the First Choice run Saturday, but I'm not quite ready for 5Ks -- yet. My times on near-daily runs/jogs continue to improve, though.

But if I'd run, I may not have had the interaction with others that I experienced riding a float as a costumed candy-tosser.

Thanks to all of you who made good comments about our float, me, and the Times-Gazette in general as we cruised by. You turned an already-fun event into something special. We enjoyed you as much as we hope you enjoyed us.

-- David Melson is copy editor at the Times-Gazette. He can be reached at dmelson@t-g.com.

David Melson
On the Loose