Monday, July 12, 2004

Boombox Parade

My wife and I spent Independence Day in Willimantic, CT to see the local "Boombox Parade". My wife is from the area, and I lived there briefly. The Boombox Parade is quirky local event that skirts the boundaries of good taste.

The Boombox Parade has its origins in parody. In 1986, the city of Willimantic did not have the money to put a marching band into its Independence Day Parade. Formerly the thread-making capital of the United States, Willimantic is a city that has had hard times for decades. A local woman, Kathy Clark, got the idea of having spectators bring their boomboxes, all tuned to the same radio station, playing patriotic music at full blast while a random assortment of people and groups march down the street. Her recent death was a focus for this year's event.

The parade is notorious for its irreverence and its controversy. Anyone who wants to can march (or drive) in the parade with anything that they want. The first year I saw the parade a local businessman wanted to display a statue of Lenin that came with a purchase of scrap metal. He wanted the statue to be a focus of mockery, but some local groups felt that it was still inappropriate for the parade, and he did not enter the statue. Last year a pro-marijuana group wanted to have a prominent display, causing another flurry of protests (don't know how that one turned out).

This year's parade may have had no controversy from the outside, but it was rife with oddities and biting satire. Several men dressed as cereal boxes. A few others drove their lawn mowers. One group put together a float of macabre horrors, including a bizarre scarecrow that on first sight looked like a lynched man. Many men chose the parade as an opportunity to show off their classic cars. Two men portrayed former Connecticut governor Rowland, who recently quit as charges of corruption swirled around his head; one of them dragged a pail behind him to represent the governor's ill-gotten hot tub. There were other political commentaries, but the right did not produce any of them. Local politicians from the two parties marched in the parade as well. Various community organizations and businesses also took the opportunity to promote themselves.

The best were those things dealing with the "Battle of the Frogs", an usual event from local ecological history. At the height of the battles with the French and the Indians, local residents shivered in terror one night as they heard thousands of screams echoing off the hills. When day broke, they found that thousands of frogs had died in agony as they searched for water as the ponds were drying up. According to local legend, the frogs fought each other. Frogs were everywhere in the parade, but two men took to reenacted the battle as a boxing match.  Posted by Hello


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