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Parade draws a crowd

November 04, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

John John Smith adjusted his 10-year-old daughter's pink hood, making sure it kept out the cold air as they watched the 78th Annual Mummers' Parade on Saturday night.

"It's wonderful to see kids inclined to do this. We should flood the streets to show our appreciation," said Smith, 57, of Hagerstown.

And flood the streets they did. Organizers said about 75,000 people came out to watch the largest independent nonprofit parade on the East Coast.

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"This is all for the kids and the community groups," said parade chairman Bill McCleaf.

In Hagerstown's Public Square, a group of young gymnasts wearing red jumpsuits tossed their tiniest member about 10 feet in the air and the crowd gasped until she landed safely.

Several of the girls performed flips that ended in splits.

"Oh, if I did that I'd never get up," said spectator Berthaleen McCusker, 67, of Hagerstown.

The parade didn't disappoint those who like to look for the most unique floats.

Beverly Healthcare sponsored a float that looked like a pirate ship with bubbles floating out the top. Smithsburg High School Class of 2005 created a float with a scary jungle theme, complete with boiling cauldron for shrinking heads.

Dozens of marching bands pounded out beats to hold the parade together.

In all, 189 groups signed up to participate, McCleaf said.

Temperatures were in the mid 40s and dropping, but many people said they expected it to be colder. A brisk wind that blew during the day died down after sunset.

"It wouldn't be a Halloween parade if it was warm," McCusker said.

Sheri Gigeous, 22, of Hagerstown held her sister's Italian greyhound, Lexi, in her arms wrapped in a blanket. Her sister, Staci, explained that the small dog has virtually no body fat to keep it warm.

Jim Schofield, 52, was one of the many people who live along the Potomac Street parade route to host a party. "It's a once-a-year happening," he said. "For a small town, this is a great parade."

Although the parade was held just three days before the election, organizers with the Alsatia Club always ban any kind of politicking. Only incumbent politicians are allowed to ride in the parade.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., was asked to remove four "Bartlett for Congress" bumper stickers from the red convertible in which he was riding, organizers said.

Virtually the entire Hagerstown police force is pressed into service for the event, said Sgt. Rick Reynolds, who was prepared for a long evening with a thermos full of coffee on the passenger seat of his cruiser. Reynolds considered himself lucky to be able to work the event in a heated vehicle for the past four years. For 17 previous parades, he walked the beat.

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