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Parade, fair weather bring out big crowds

October 31, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Not all of the action for the 80th annual Alsatia Mummers' Parade Saturday night took place between the curbs of Potomac Street or between the first and last participant.

In the midst of the parade, a man with as much, if not more, hair on his back as on his chest strolled by on the sidewalk wearing a blonde wig and skimpy Hooters outfit, a dollar bill tucked into the front of his white tank top.

"I hope that was a bet," a parade-watcher commented after the man strode confidently past.

All of the trappings of a typical parade were present as well. Marching bands. Floats. Gymnasts. Youth football and soccer players. Elected officials and pageant winners in convertibles. Fire engines and police cruisers. Cheerleaders.

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And mummers - everyday people in costumes.

James McCleaf, president of the Alsatia Club and the club's parade chairman, said there were 182 parade entries.

Last year's crowd total was "nice." This year's was better, McCleaf said.

"I haven't seen this many people for a long time," McCleaf said during a cell phone interview during the parade.

He said people were standing seven or eight deep at Howard Street, which is a spot where the crowd in past years tended to peter out.

Although 50/50 raffle tickets were being sold for a "Save the Mummers' Parade" benefit, there's no immediate danger of the parade being canceled, McCleaf said.

Only 65 percent of the Alsatia Club's chairs and bleacher seats were sold, but the City of Hagerstown helped by bringing in corporate sponsors to pay for around $8,500 in prizes, he said.

Private donations also helped, McCleaf said.

Anticipation of the parade was obvious, even well before it began.

Friday night, some people had already placed chairs on the street's edge. The number had multiplied by Saturday afternoon.

Potomac Street was lined with lawn chairs, plastic chairs, rocking chairs, benches, chairs that looked as if they'd been swiped from the dining room, office chairs and at least one couch.

More than an hour before the parade began Barbara and Joel Summers, of Maugansville, were waiting. They did not bring chairs but sat instead on a building's brick stoop.

After the parade began, Barbara Summers predicted the spot would be advantageous because she could stand up and see above the heads of those sitting in chairs in front of her.

"When you're short, you think of all sorts of things," she said.

She said she had not been to the parade since her grandson was 2 years old; he's now 7.

"I marched in it years ago. I'd like to sit on this side of it for a change," Barbara Summers said.

She offered a possible suggestion to parade organizers.

"If there were more port-a-potties, I'd come more often," she said.

Elsewhere, before the parade began, skateboarders took advantage of the closed street to move their ollies and kick flips off the sidewalks and onto the asphalt.

Street vendors hawked their wares, including stuffed animals, balloons, cotton candy, candy apples, tall hats and light-up toys.

A man with a 12-pack of Budweiser beer hoisted on his shoulder ignored cries of "Over here" by another man.

Two young boys battling with light-up toy swords, stopped clashing long enough to peer into Marsh Run near Bester Elementary School.

"That's where the bad guys come from," one of the boys sagely advised the other, as they peered into the spot where the water flows out of a large dark culvert.

Jane Ryerson, 77, of Hagerstown, staked out a prime spot in front of St. John's Lutheran Church, where she also was able to find a parking space.

"I have not attended for years. We just decided we were going to take a look," Ryerson said.

Relatively balmy weather - some spectators wore shorts - helped, she said.

"It's (usually) so blasted cold or wet," she said.

For more parade photos, visit our Photo Gallery.

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