The Big Parade
Summer is well underway here in Oberlin, where I am staying to do research. The campus is slow and sleepy, most of the students gone or sheltering inside air-conditioned buildings from the heat and humidity. I think back to a day just over a month ago, when the streets were full of people and I was still excited that it was warm enough to wear shorts. The contrast is striking . . . .
(Dear audience: we are now entering a flashback. Please picture the sides of your mental TV image going all bendy and cue a haunting, rippling melody. Thank you.)
The flashback wobbles fade out, catching me in mid-laugh. I am at the Feve with a group of friends on a bright Saturday morning, having brunch. It's crowded; the Feve is always busy in mid-morning on weekends as college students, professors, and normal Oberlin citizens treat themselves to the fabled Feve Brunch. Though the brunch menu is constantly changing, its highlights are the two sets of pancakes--sweet cakes and savory cakes--that nearly everyone at the table has chosen. This week's sweet pancakes are strawberry with lemon cream cheese topping, which is what I've gotten; the savory ones have crab in them, which also sounds good, but I could not resist the idea of strawberries. I look up at the clock and realize, with some surprise, that it is nearly noon--the plan was to have brunch at ten! But, realistically, what "Feve brunch at ten" actually means when you're trying to coordinate eight Obies is "We'll try to have everyone rounded up and out of their respective buildings by 10:20, but no promises." Then, of course, there's a wait for a table, but as this means we can go across the street to the Ginko Gallery and play with kittens, no one minds.
These are babies, so young they don't even look entirely like cats--more like any generic small mammal.
Another cat, one old enough to hold, finds necklaces to be wonderful toys.
A very intent stare. Perhaps he is trying to figure out how to walk without falling over. He's still at the age where that happens.
Normally, finishing brunch at noon would not be an issue, but on this particular day, I have things to do. The Big Parade is about to start! I excuse myself, pay, and leave early, along with a few other members of our group. One is off to finish a take-home test--a far less fun task than mine. I stroll along College Street, which is already lined with people. It's cold in the shade, so I try to stick to sunny patches. I get as far down as Cowhaus Creamery when I see them coming.
The Big Parade is a fairly new Oberlin tradition--this year was its eleventh. I know a little bit more about it than most people because I was in a class in which the main project was to research an Oberlin holiday in collaboration with high school students. The me inside the flashback is eager to hear the report of the group working on the Big Parade. The me outside the flashback knows about it already, and can share her knowledge with you.
It began as a result of the efforts of a couple new to the community to create an event that would unite the town and the college. The bike co-op got involved early on as well--I believe they were the link to the student community. FAVA, the arts gallery, got drawn in as the event took on an aspect of artistic expression. Over the years, floats got more elaborate, and participants began to need a designated space to work on their creations. There's now a spot behind the student health center where people can store their equipment and build their floats.
Different groups and organizations in the college and community are represented in the parade. My guess is almost everyone knows someone who is marching. The Circus has a presence, of course--stilters at a minimum, and sometimes there have been people juggling or spinning poi as well. There are lots of musical groups, including the Oberlin Marching Band and, this year, a troop of fiddlers of all ages.
There are creative costumes, clever floats, an enormous camel, and a car with mouse ears and a tail (all pictured below except the mouse-car). The streets are lined with people and the balconies of the apartments overlooking College Street are almost all occupied. I scurry around and take many, many pictures. I plan to make a blog full of them. It will be an awkward blog, with far more pictures than words, but that's okay.
The Oberlin Unitarian Universalists' float included a giant chalice.
Some people just dressed up for fun!
The Girl Scouts were giant cookies pulling a box of Thin Mints.
A cool statue in a wagon.
Yes, those are real rabbits in that hutch.
James and the Giant Peach!
The college and community radio station, WOBC, broadcasts out of a small room in Wilder, the student union building. I've been on it a few times for various reasons.
. . . And sometimes you look at Oberlin's performance-artist types and just want to ask, "What?"
Among those times are when they're wearing flesh-colored bodysuits that are sewn together and appear to have poi dangling off them.
These guys were playing giant baseball in the middle of the parade. I loved it.
Taiko! I know some of these people!
This particular setup was very clever. The photo above shows the dragon's head and body. The ones below show its tail.
The detail in the tail was amazing.
The dollhouse wrapped in tubing is the Oberlin Efficient Homes movement's float.
The Boy Scouts.
The High School art club had a float!
The Living Machine is a setup at the environmental studies building, a room full of plants that filter wastewater from the building. I think the float (below) is meant to look like the "machine" part of it.
The parade included live music.
The Hare Krishna wagon, pulled by a large group of singing people. It's huge.
An idea of scale on the Hare Krishna wagon. The wheels are at least six feet high.
Lots of people biking! Hooray for biking! Oberlin has lots of bikes.
Raising money for the July 4th fireworks display.
OSteel (steel drums).
This dragon's mouth opened and emitted green smoke.
As promised, a giant camel.
It was a very well-trained giant camel. It would even kneel down on command!
After the parade proper ends, there is a small festival in Tappan Square, complete with a bouncy house for the kids (and college students) who are interested. My friend Connor teaches people how to walk on stilts. There are hamburgers and lemonade. I hang out for a while, but all too soon I have to leave and get ready for the afternoon show of the spring circus. That's another thing I fully intend to write a photo-laden blog about sometime in the very near future . . . .