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Boom Box Parade recap by the Grand Marshal

Posted By: Wayne Norman
Date: Wednesday, 4 July 2001, at 10:42 p.m.

I emailed this to some of my friends and relatives. I figured it might be of interest to this forum....

The WILI Boomo Box Parade was awesome. Biggest, best, longest ever.

Our music soundtrack (played from a CD we created this week) lasted 65 minutes. We had to scramble to find more music, as the parade lasted until 12:14.

Channel 3 and 30 were there and both did good, complete 2 minute wrapups on the 5pm news.

My schtick was thrown for a loop several times before the parade. Originally I was going to ride an electric-powered bike, but that became unavailable 90 minutes before the parade. So I scrambled and got a kid's scooter to ride. It scored big time.

We put red white and blue streamers around it, a few flags, and then it was up to me not to fall off (I had never ridden one of those--took a little practice, and Main Street has a few more bumps than I remembered from my rollerblading year '98.). I almost wiped out a few times, but honestly the spectators liked that part of the show! But the further I went--despite getting pretty tired--the better I handled it and I did more creative things near the end.

My outfit: Essentially Uncle Sam. But I didn't have pants that fit, so I had navy blue shorts, red knee socks, with red white and blue ankle socks over them, and white sneakers. My knees were showing (including my knee brace--I woke up with a sore left knee, but it wasn't a problem.)

The Uncle Sam coat was royal blue with red and white stripes, and a silky white vest and a red bow tie. I had a light blue dress shirt on under the vest. I had white gloves (forgot to wear them in the pre-parade scramble) and about a 6" grey goatee beard (held on by string).

Some may not have noticed this, but shoulder high on my back was a 3 foot long drawing on posterboard of our new Thread City Crossing frog bridge, with actual photos of the frogs adorning each end. Halfway thru the route I began pointing it out to people.

And the hat: A bright yellow hard hat (with WILI bumper stickers), wired for sound effects with some little clear nylon strips which lit up red and spun like a helicopter when I hit the remote button (out of sight on my belt). Also on that control panel was a button to trigger the sound effects, which rotated between explosions, sirens, phone ringing, etc. Particularly popular with the kids. The electronic whiz who offered me the bike was also the creative genius behind the hat.

I bagged the white drum major hat I have worn most years, and I bagged the traditional boom box shoes (besides being pretty beat up now, I probably couldn't have used them on the bike, so they weren't ready. Might have been usable on the scooter).

I had a bag of candy but had too much going on (and keep balance) to continually reach in, so I scrapped that plan.

When the parade began I started off behind the police escort, then after a few feet realized--oops--wait for the color guard, so I circled around and started again.

I didn't go straight down the center line, but zigzagged to the curbs--especially in the second half. I got really hot and tired, and occasionally walked a few feet. But overall, the scooter and the outfit were very well received. Besides the usual "Happy Fourth" stuff, one of my best-received lines was "I'm Uncle Sam, and You are my nephew/neice." I used it a lot.

Showers passed just south of us at dawn. It was cloudy, humid, and 75 at 11am. The sun broke thru after noon.

I privately expected a huge turnout because of it being a Wednesday (less people take off for a 3-4 day weekend and since it was cloudy, we retain some of the beach crowd). It was huge!

After 16 of these I know what to expect from the crowd. Appeared to me to be the usual crowd--maybe slightly smaller than I expected. But that could also be because I think more people marched. It was easily the most participants we've ever had.

The Sony involvement was surprisingly minimal. A Sony PR woman and a friend came up from NJ, and were extremely impressed. I'm hoping she sends me some of the digital photos she took for our website. But they marched--with the same style boom box they gave me. However they didn't have any Sony shirt or other notification they were from Sony--so spectators didn't know. But I had my shiny red Sony Boom Box--covered with WILI bumper stickers--hanging from a strap around my shoulders, right in front of my chest. My rechargable batteries died toward the end of the parade route. I don't think many noticed.

The parade had the usual variety of entries. Biggest unit was the Haggerosa (Haggerty) family of about 100. Streched over three blocks. They were all in specially made blue T-Shirts. It was a cops and robbers theme, with high powered squirt guns! Many civic organizations--theater guild, library, Scouts, 4-H, even UConn's puppetry program for the first time--complete with hand and full size puppets. The local gay and lesbian alliance has marched for a few years--this time with guys in hula skirts! As usual, lots of politicians, including a huge group supporting the party-favorite first selectman candidate--all wearing specially made yellow/orange T-Shirts pushing their boy! Some conservation groups marched. The Food Coop. The Soup kitchen. A group called "Babes for Breasts" --promoting breast cancer awareness. They had a car decked out with a huge bra over the front! The Chronicle always has fun--this year a group of people dressed in various costumes (they'll never top their entry of last year where everyone was dressed as the page they work on--see our website for photo). And the Traveling Fish Head Club was here for the 15th year--I didn't see their theme, but their 4-5 fishes this year were orange.

A couple from Orlando emailed me last week saying they were coming up, asked info, etc. Via email I convinced them its much more fun to march, so they did, wearing t-shirts with their names. I saw them in the parade and they said they were really happy they came up. They were interviewed on Ch 3.

There wasn't as much of a frog presence as I expected (new frog bridge was officially dedicated 11 days ago), but it was there. I had mine, and there were a few frog themed units (including some marching as frogs) near the end. One included Bill Grover--one of the frog bridge's architects.

Some of the fire engines at the end of the parade had been at the (traditional) Columbia parade an hour earlier. I know some people who watch or walk in both parades.

The local Charter cable company videotaped the whole thing and will probably show it next week. They did a good job on the '99 parade. Ray Dunaway from WTIC did a five minute phone interview with me this morning pre-parade.

We will have updated photos on our website soon.

So now I have 364 days to think of something else wacky. I have created a monster. And I've aged a lot. In one year, from diapers to Uncle Sam.

May the Fourth be with you. Until next year...

Wayne Norman