Parade of thousands from Out and About

October 29, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Each fall for the past decade or so, float parts have lined the halls of Beverly Healthcare in Hagerstown. This year is no different.

Nursing home residents and staff members are gearing up for the 80th annual Alsatia Mummers' Parade with the creation of a 1950s-style soda fountain float. They've created giant cellophane ribbon straws that protrude from mammoth mugs crafted from shiny cardboard, a paper jukebox and classic car, balloon bubbles, plaid-covered tables and lighted columns punctuated with albums.

"We all have fun, and we look forward to the parade every year," said resident Judy Elliott, 49, a stroke victim who enjoyed riding in last year's float. "I was waving to the people in the street as we rode by. I really did have a nice time."


This year's Alsatia Mummers' Parade through downtown Hagerstown will start at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30. The lively procession will begin at the intersection of Oak Hill Avenue and Potomac Street and continue south on Potomac Street to Wilson Boulevard.

Honorable grand marshals

Willis Gunstone of Williamsport is among a group of World War II veterans who will serve as the parade's grand marshals.

"I've marched in the parades down in Brunswick (Md.) and Gettysburg (Pa.) for Veterans Day," said Gunstone, 79. "This is my first Mummers' Parade."

As a member of the 99th Infantry Division, 393rd Regiment, Company A during World War II, Gunstone fought on the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge. He said he was wounded by a mortar burst during the first day of fighting - Dec. 16, 1944 - but continued to fight until he was removed from combat due to a case of "trench foot" on Christmas Day.

"They wouldn't let me walk for over a month, my feet were that bad," said Gunstone, who returned to active duty in April 1945 and was discharged in January 1946.

Other veterans who will ride alongside him in Humvees for the parade will include:

· Forrest Guth of Delaware, who served with the 101st Airborne Division, 506th Parachute Infantry.

· Clancy Lyall of Lexington Park, Md., who served with the 101st Airborne Division, 506th Parachute Infantry.

· Guy Whidden of Frederick, Md., who served with the 101st Airborne Division, 502nd Parachute Infantry.

· Meyer Chertoff of Frederick, who served as a German interpreter for the 101st Airborne Division.

· Fred Wishard of Williamsport, who served with the 17th Airborne Division, 194th Glider Infantry.

· John Leather of Hagerstown, who served with the 17th Airborne Division, 194th Glider Infantry.

· Ora DeLauter of Smithsburg, who served with the 5th Armored Division.

Floats, bands and mummers

The Mummers' Parade generally includes about 10,000 parade participants and 50,000 spectators - which means a lot of work for parade organizers. Alsatia Club members begin planning for the event in January, breaking into committees to handle parade duties ranging from ordering portable toilets to setting up more than 3,000 chairs and 2,460 bleacher seats for parade watchers, said James McCleaf, club president and parade chairman.

"Most of us wear three or four hats on different committees," he said.

With the help of the City of Hagerstown and local businesses, the Alsatia Club will be able to award $8,500 in cash prizes to winning parade participants, McCleaf said. Earlier this year, the club announced that it would replace the cash prizes with trophies due to financial woes. City and business leaders then stepped up to the plate with financial support, McCleaf said.

"The city's just absolutely wonderful. They do a great job," he said.

McCleaf expects about 200 marching units for the parade, plus floats and mummers - people who wear masks or disguises for fun.

"We always love to have plenty of mummers," he said. "Hopefully this year we'll have even more."

Individuals interested in dressing up and parading as mummers can register in front of Bill's Other Yard Sale at 672 Oak Hill Ave. from 5 to 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 30. It's free, but mummers must follow a few simple rules: They may not use motorized or mechanized vehicles; no candy or literature may be passed out along the parade route; and no fire or firing of firearms is permitted. And mummers must not impede the forward progress of the parade.

Beverly Healthcare will offer up a few mummers for the parade - staff members and others who will don leather jackets or poodle skirts to complement the nursing home's 1950s-style float.

"I'm going for the John Travolta look," said Nancy Juska, activities director at Beverly Healthcare. "I'm a greaser."

Juska said the facility's residents also have created several poodle skirts for use in the parade. Everyone who rides on the float will wear an appropriate costume, said Rose Long, admissions and marketing director at Beverly Healthcare.

A group effort

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