He usually goes by Robbie, but after 5pm he goes by “Parade 1.” Meet the man behind Grand Carnivale’s Spectacle of Color Parade at Dorney Park, Robbie O’Brien. A college senior studying Theater, Robbie is responsible for coordinating the Opening Ceremony and Spectacle of Color Parade while ensuring both are an enjoyable experience for guests. After coordinating the festival side of Grand Carnivale at Kings Dominion (KD), Robbie knew he had a little more Grand Carnivale left in him – so he came to Dorney Park to keep the celebration going! As we enter our third week of Grand Carnivale at Dorney Park, we sat down with Robbie to get a glimpse at everything that goes into such a spectacular event.
When you first heard of Grand Carnivale, did you expect to be so greatly involved with the event?
Funny thing, I was actually interviewed for a concert crew position I applied for at KD, and in the middle of the interview they noticed on my resume that I had festival work and stated, “We’re doing this festival called Grand Carnivale… how do you feel about this opportunity instead?” And I said, “Sure, I’d love to!” I was then hired, and took on the role without even really knowing how involved Grand Carnivale was - and I'm so happy I did.
What do you do in preparation of the parade?
At 7pm, all the float drivers have to do all their checklists – making sure that all of the equipment is ready to go, all of the props are ready to go, all of the streamers are loaded. At about 7:30pm, we move into what we call “the shoot” – getting all of the floats from the big white tent in the parking lot in order, in line, and ready to go.
What are your duties during the parade?
My duties are to ensure the safety of the route, the performers, and the guests. As far as the entire day, I’m responsible for the Opening Ceremony and getting ready for the parade. The parade starts at 8:30pm and the preparation usually begins at 7pm.
What lead you to be up for the challenge?
Special events in general are my passion. I never want to sit in a cubicle. Ever.
What’s it like working for a company where you get to travel?
It’s a challenge because as soon as you show up you start working. But then you also have to live in a town that’s new to you. Honestly, it’s a lot of fun. You get to meet a whole bunch of new people.
Are there any funny idioms for Grand Carnivale?
At the end of the night, I send all of the rider floats back to the shoot and the guests get off. The rider floats then do what we call “the dance.” We have to reorder the rider floats so that when we park, they can all park in the correct positions without getting stuck. When everyone is done for the night, I will radio the King’s float supervisor and say, “All floats, go to bed,” and that’s a wrap for the night.
What was it like rolling out Grand Carnivale, as (technically) the first Cedar Fair park?
At KD, we were the very first ones to do Grand Carnivale (sorry KI, EST here). It was figuring out how to run it, how to structure it, where to put everybody, the facilities… We had to figure it all out!
Morning: Wake up, get dressed, and come right to work. I arrive at Dorney Park by 11am, daily.
Afternoon: Address any, and all issues from the night before, attend the daily Grand Carnivale meeting at 3pm
After 3pm: Gearing up and coordinating... answering actors’ questions, make sure everything is prepped then, kicking of Grand Carnivale at 5pm with the Opening Ceremony and doing the same for the Spectacle of Color Parade at 8:30pm.
This is my life, 12 hour days for 3 straight weeks!
Grand Carnivale is a limited-time event taking place every single day NOW through August 11. The fun kicks off with the Grand Carnivale Opening Ceremony at 5pm in the Main Midway, followed by the Spectacle of Color Parade at 8:30pm and the Carnivale Street Party immediately after. For more information on Grand Carnivale, click here.