Whether it’s an elaborate float recreating Washington’s crossing of the Delaware or a little motorized car pulling a wagon full of favorite snacks, Willimantic’s Boom Box Parade is known for its eclectic participants.
For example, the July 4, 2011 parade included a contingent carrying signs in support of atheism, followed by a group representing the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry.
The parade also is an opportunity to promote a business or event.
So, this year’s parade included the return of the Willimantic Brewing Company’s mockup of a distillery – and handouts of free (nonalcoholic) refreshment, as well as a mad-scientist kind of float for Hosmer Mountain Soda supposedly replicating the lab where some of their more creative flavors are concocted, and from Ladd’s Nurseries a float covered with flowers and landscaping materials, along with a giveaway of free plants for some of the lucky parade watchers.
Parade marchers representing Willimantic Waste Paper Co. pushed trash cans and periodically stopped to perform a synchronized routine with them.
Just a few of the events or organizations getting some exposure at the parade included the CT Renaissance Faire (whose members gave out $2 coupons for admission to the 2011 event), the Willimantic Victorian Neighborhood Association, the local Scouts, martial arts groups, the McSweeney Senior Center, a wrestling club, and local schools – from pre-school up through Eastern Connecticut State University and Quinnebaug Valley Community College.
Politicians making an appearance included Democrat and former member of the U.S. House of Rep. for the 6th District Nancy Johnson and Democrat Chris Murphy, who defeated Johnson in 2007 and is now running for the U.S. Senate.
Also joining the parade were unicyclists, stilt walkers, a clown and the ubiquitous (former Romantic Willimantic Cupid) Claire Meikle and her fruit-decorated hat who, despite a recent hip injury, completed the parade route with the use of her (red-white-and-blue decorated) walker.
During presidential election years, there are many more candidates who join the parade – as well as many more political signs supporting causes or protesting a variety of issues.
This parade was surprisingly quiet, politically speaking. Even the perennial parade participants The Traveling Fish Head Club didn’t seem to have a focal issue, but was celebrating its 25th anniversary appearance.
Also missing this Fourth of July was the usual Mardi Gras-style throwing of candy and other treats to parade watchers. This is a new rule – only handing items to parade watchers allowed – put into effect for the first time this year, aimed at making the parade safer. In the past, children were known to run in front of parade vehicles trying to scoop up treats.
It was also the first parade with trained volunteers, or Parade Officials, who walked the length of the parade to help with any concerns – one of those being Annie Clark, whose mother Kathy Clark originated the idea for a Boom Box parade.
The idea was that rather than have bands playing the patriotic tunes, parade marchers and watchers would carry a “boom box” radio that would broadcast music played by WILI radio. In fact, WILI radio personality Wayne Norman has served as Parade Marshal from the event’s beginning. His costume this year included a Husky (as in dog) hat to show his support for the UConn Huskies.
Following is a slide show of a few scenes from today’s parade, held under sunny skies, despite forecasts of possible thundershowers.
All photos copyright 2011 by Brenda Sullivan.
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