Oh Oberlin: The Big Parade

Growing up in Oberlin, I have the memory of marching in a parade on Morgan Street each summer for a few summers. I think we march two blocks. Maybe it was four. Wagons, maybe costumes and whatever music-making items we could pick up is what I remember. Better than that was ending the parade at the Morgan Street reservoir and having popsicles and games.

Fast-forward 35 years and scale that to the entire city of Oberlin, and you get the Big Parade: a four-block parade that attracts everyone from town, ending at Tappan Square with food.

The wagons are still there. But watch for the puppets and floats. Exotic. It makes me smile to think that my kids will remember the parade.

Going back to spring 2014 when this was a radio show on WOBC, I wanted to do a show about the Big Parade. I had no appreciation for how much time goes into planning it. So I understand now why Laura Dahle invited me to a February meeting with Ian Petroni of Parade the Circle at which he talked about puppet making. First, it was where I would catch many of the principals in the parade including herself, Claudio Orso and James Peake. Secondly, residents were there to learn how to make giant puppets (read: community engagement). These things take time to plan and make.

So the format is a little different this week. We will come back over and over to Petroni giving directions about scaling puppets. There had to be a dozen people at Fava on Feb. 15, there to get their start in production. You will hear James Peake in the background at different times. I talk to both Laura Dahle and Claudio Orso in what I’m going to characterize as an artistic flurry.

I don’t want to portray these folks as the only ones involved. They don’t want that either. There is a lot that goes into the May morning that is the Big Parade.

Search “Fava” and “Giant puppet making workshop” for more information about meeting dates and times.

Laura told me this weekend that at their last special interest meeting at the Wilder student center there were smiles inside when a student said she remembers the parade as a great event, with everyone having fun. “Of course we need more of this,” she wrote me over Facebook. “Long winter. Of course the prep and organization is overwhelming and students get in over their heads with many projects. But we somehow pull it off. It’s especially wild the week before.”

Laura thanked Ian Petroni and another presenter coming in next Saturday to teach everyone how to move in parade. For more information, visit imaginaction.org

Search “Fava” and “Giant puppet making workshop” for more information about meeting dates and times.

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