Monday, May 9, 2011

Local & Happening Now

Seed Bearers (Photo by Bruce Silcox)

Maybe because winter lasts so very long in Minnesota, we relish the celebrations that say a final farewell to winter. This year, especially, winter has stepped aside oh-so reluctantly for spring

Sunday May 1st crowds braved chilly 30-degree temperatures and a fierce wind to watch the 37th annual May Day Parade sponsored by the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater (HOBT). In spite of this year's wintry weather, this is a local tradition to welcome  spring. The mile long parade down Bloomington Avenue in Minneapolis ends in a pageant in Powderhorn Park where a larger-than-life puppet representing the Tree of Life emerges from the darkness of winter, this year represented by a crow. 

From the crow...
... the Tree of Life emerges. (Photos by Liz Welch)

Clearly, this seasonal celebration is not bound by the calendar that says spring arrives March 21st. That’s the
point. We share a celebration of  Earth Day across the country on April 22nd. But some celebrations like Arbor Day–celebrated in January in Florida and in May in Alaska–are seasonally timed. This decidedly local quality interests me.

The Parade is produced by neighbors, school groups, community organizations, friends, and artists in a way that also manages the long wait for spring in these high latitudes. Preparations begin months in advance. Groups and individuals, newcomers and veterans come together regularly in the social and creative environments of the HOBT workshops. Here, they transform cardboard, paper bags, found and natural objects, and, of course, duct tape, into the masks and costumes for the parade. They help construct 20-foot puppets and floats that punctuate the parade and star in the pageant. Finally, neighbors, friends, and students become the celebration of spring, dancing down the street, pounding on tambourines, walking on stilts, pushing carts, and carrying floats.

The sun carriers
Considering the unspring-like weather this year, crowds were surprisingly strong. People appreciate and want to be part of what the celebration represents, even if the weather doesn't deliver.

Not all local celebrations must be big, take months to put together, or use multiple colors of duct tape to be meaningful. Sometimes the most touching ones happen at a very personal scale and on the next block.

Old Man Winter is put to bed.
A celebration of spring was also held last week. Preschool-aged children at the Greenspoon Day Care down the street put Old Man Winter to bed. In a May ritual that has evolved over many years, a dozen young children rushed out from the corner of the house to find Old Man Winter (an obliging husband). Waving their hands to make ribbons flutter at their wrists, they covered Old Man with a quilt. 
Standing over him, they let out great cheers and joyfully tossed seeds into the air. They then moved to claim their winter’s projects to take home: soft dolls they had patiently created  over several months. Very local, very small, and tailored to the audience of appreciative parents, grandparents, neighbors, and day care alums. 

In fact, this celebration almost didn’t happen; some of the littlest children just weren’t sure they could face Old Man Winter. That’s how happening now this event was

Dolls created over the winter are now ready to go home.


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