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Executive Diversions
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 10, 2020 2 weeks ago

On the march: PR pro's parade dreams come true

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Candace Rotolo rekindles her color-guard love and relearns a valuable lesson: Find the stuff that brings you joy.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Executive: Candace Rotolo, 50. Rotolo is a Tampa-based solo public relations practitioner whose portfolio of clients includes companies in the food, construction, housing and small business sectors. 

Diversion: Marching band. Rotolo is a member of the Awesome Original Second Time Arounders Marching Band, a St. Petersburg-based group for adults who’ve never given up their love of performing in a marching band. Rotolo is part of the band’s color guard, the contingent that twirls and tosses fake rifles, though she also has experience playing the flute.

Everyone loves a parade: The Second Time Arounders were one of just a handful of marching bands, out of 120 that applied, selected to perform in the 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — “the granddaddy of all parades,” says Rotolo, who took part in the famous event, which was first held in 1924 and is the nation’s second-oldest Thanksgiving Day parade.

Practice makes perfect: Traveling to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade was the culmination of two years of preparation and practice, Rotolo says. The Second Time Arounders applied in 2017 and found out they had been selected in April 2018. That news brought a flurry of activity. Members would practice on their own and then, as Thanksgiving 2019 approached, assemble for group rehearsals a couple times per month. The musicians would assemble at the Coliseum in St. Pete, while the auxiliary and color guard would utilize the St. Pete Police Athletic League building.

Creative financing: Transporting a group of 450 people to New York and back is not cheap, so the band, a nonprofit enterprise, sought ways to reduce expenses. “We took over some of the concession stands at Buccaneers games, USF games at Rays games to help defray costs,” Rotolo says. Individual members — who range in age from 16 to 79 and travel from as far away as Texas and Canada to take part in the band — were responsible for paying their own travel and accommodation costs, so the generosity shown by the Tampa Bay community helped lessen the financial hit.

Ready for the spotlight: Rotolo knew during the parade — which draws 3 million attendees and as many as 50 million TV viewers — that the eyes of much of the nation were on her and her fellow marchers. But that didn’t bother Rotolo. “I tried to think of it as just another parade,” she says. “But I also knew that I was extremely well prepared. … I kind of meditated a lot about how I was going to have a performance that I was really proud of.”

Emotional moments: The magnitude of what she and Second Time Arounders were about to do threatened to overwhelm Rotolo before the band had even departed for the Big Apple. “I had some emotional moments,” she says. “I was getting a little teary-eyed. … I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I can't believe I'm doing this at my age.’ It was a dream I didn't even know that I had. And to realize that dream was just incredible. And I think the best part was the camaraderie of all of us working toward having a fantastic performance that entertained people.”

Picking up where she left off: Prior to joining the Second Time Arounders, Rotolo hadn’t picked up a marching band rifle in close to 30 years, since her high school days; the college she attended did not have marching band. “It was wonderful to know that I still had that skill,” she says. “It’s a skill that not everyone is able to do. You have to be in sync with everyone. You have to always be looking through your peripheral vision to make sure you're in step with everyone else. What I've learned and taken away from it is the discipline that's required — what's required to perform as part of a group and not as not an individual.”

Professional benefits: Marching band, Rotolo says, has helped her career. Not only does it teach discipline and teamwork, but it also serves as a much-needed creative outlet. “It’s a time when I can not worry about everything else that’s on my to-do list. … I can just be present with people who I like and create something. It's important for people to go back to their hobbies or find a new hobby and learn something new because it adds to your creativity, but like work, if it doesn’t bring you joy, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

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