Seeing green: NAU students get hands-on experience planning, coordinating Sedona’s St. Patrick’s Day parade

March 15, 2019

Several thousand viewers showed up on Saturday for the St. Patrick’s Day parade to watch the sea of green wind through the streets of uptown Sedona.

What they didn’t see, however, were the more than 50 Northern Arizona University students who worked behind-the-scenes to make sure the event was a success.

For the past 25 years, students in the Parks and Recreation Management Program at NAU have put what they learn in the classroom to the test. Each year, the students in the program’s special event planning class (PRM325) work with the City of Sedona to plan, coordinate and implement the annual Sedona St. Patrick’s Day Parade—this year was no different.

“The event went off without a hitch,” said Kathleen Finlayson, parks and recreation management instructor. “Sure, it’s stressful and chaotic, but all large events are. And the important thing is that everyone—students and parade-viewers alike—had fun and enjoyed themselves. It’s a great learning experience.”

NAU students work paradeTo plan the community event, the class was separated into teams—grandstand, registration and streets—and went to work. Students created and designed awards, banners, event shirts and flyers that were used in the parade and to promote it beforehand, and coordinated rental equipment deliveries, pick-up and billing. They also were required to create and send letters to search for entrants and potential sponsors and took field excursions to Sedona to hand deliver flyers and letters to local businesses and residents. This year, 47 entrants participated in the parade, up from last year’s 42.

The students get to practice communication—both between themselves and the clients with which they work—planning, coordinating, organizing and executing, all while working on a tight timeline set by the Sedona parks and recreation department manager.

The real-world experience the students receive from getting to work on such an elaborate event is priceless, said Finlayson.

“This class is designed to be experiential in nature for students, where they learn customer service, traffic control, troubleshooting and leadership skills, not to mention how to plan, coordinate and implement large community events,” she said. “It can be frustrating for students at times as there are a lot of moving parts with coordinating events this large, but we try to teach them how to move past fear and frustration and concentrate on the task at hand; it’s a life skill that they can use throughout their working career.”

To help further student understanding of parade and event safety and risk management, students are required to obtain two FEMA certifications: Special Event Contingency Planning for Public Safety Agencies and Safety Orientation. Students use information from these online courses to create and implement an emergency action plan, should an emergency happen during the parade.

Luckily, Finlayson said, the students didn’t need to use their newly-acquired FEMA background—this parade was disaster-free.

NAU students in parade

NAU logo

Carly Banks | NAU Communications
(928) 523-5582 | carly.banks@nau.edu