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78th Annual Alsatia Mummers' Parade

Looking for a lot of character!

Looking for a lot of character!

October 31, 2002|by MEG H. PARTINGTON

megp@herald-mail.com

With floats, bands and a globetrotting grand marshal, the 78th annual Alsatia Mummers' Parade has all the makings of a festive event.

But what it really needs to be outstanding is, of course, mummers.

"We want more mummers in our Mummers' Parade," says James McCleaf II, president of the Alsatia Club, adding that the number of merrymakers in disguise has dwindled over the last three years.

One strategy the organizers are trying to attract more mummers is a March for Literacy during the parade, set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, in downtown Hagerstown.

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Co-sponsored by the Washington County Young Adult Literature Study Group and the Alsatia Club, the march encourages people to dress like literary characters.

Carol Mowen, spokeswoman for Washington County Public Schools, says creating a literary theme is a way to address an issue that is "near and dear to educators' hearts" and to promote reading as a key to future success. Those who choose to dress as literary characters will march as individuals, not as a group, she says.

Mowen says some students from Clear Spring Middle School have already committed to participate, and she hopes other schools and community groups jump on the bandwagon.

If you've been toying with the idea of dressing up and meandering in the mix of floats and bands but think it's too late to sign up, you're wrong. McCleaf says mummers can sign up the day of the parade at Bill's Other Yard Sale, on the Oak Hill Avenue side, beginning at 5 p.m.

There will be at least 200 units in the parade and thousands of dollars will be awarded to people who march, says Bill McCleaf, parade chairman and uncle of James McCleaf II. Local bands are judged but cannot win prize money, he says.

A huge bonus at this year's event will be the grand marshal, former Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon.

The basketball-star-turned-minister-and-motivational-speaker is being lent to the parade, in a sense, by the Hagerstown Junior Basketball League Inc. Lemon will be in town to speak on the evening of Friday, Nov. 1, at a banquet/fund-raiser to celebrate the league's 55th season, and to lead youth rallies on Saturday at 11 a.m. and noon at Valley Mall.

The Alsatia Club has been a sponsor of the Hagerstown Junior Basketball League since its inception and is one of its charter members, says Ken Welch, league president. Plus, "our missions are somewhat interacting," he says.

The Alsatia Club, a men's social club, established the parade in 1921 to give young people something fun to do and to deter vandalism that had plagued the city around Halloween.

The league's mission, Welch says, is to teach teamwork, leadership, responsibility and respect to young people through the game of basketball.

"The club is the recipient of something pretty cool," says Bill McCleaf.

"This is what it's all about: The community getting together and helping each other out," James McCleaf says. "It's such a community event."

Also reigning over the parade will be the Alsatia Mummers Queen, who is chosen randomly from the Washington County schools' homecoming queens, says Bill McCleaf. Before the parade, the young ladies will open seemingly identical packages. The one with a gold pendant inside will bear the crown, he says.

"This year is so exciting, it's unbelievable," James McCleaf said. "This year is going to be great."

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