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Mummers' Parade makes downtown the place to be

Mummers' Parade makes downtown the place to be

October 27, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

kristinw@herald-mail.com

On Saturday evening in downtown Hagerstown a circus ringleader will proclaim "come one, come all," while riding on a tractor-trailer bed made to look like a circus complete with a big tent and clowns.

That's right. It's time for the Alsatia Mummers' Parade, when thousands of spectators flank the streets to watch hundreds of people parade their talents, creativity or community role in an event that can last four hours.

"Imaginations run wild when it comes time for the Mummers' Parade," says James McCleaf II, president and chairman of the Alsatia Mummers' Parade Inc. "It's just kind of a wait-and-see kind of exciting time."

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McCleaf is talking about the wide range of parade entries, from marching bands to junior football leagues, that every year manage to cook up new themes for their march in the parade. This year, there are about 180 registered groups planning to march in the parade.

Otterbein United Methodist Church of Hagerstown is the sponsor of the circus- and clown-themed float with a ringleader, clowns and jumping jack-in-the-boxes.

"We were thinking about one muscle man, but we haven't decided yet," says Judy Brezler, a member of the evangelism committee at Otterbein. "Of course we need a ringleader. We wanted an elephant, but we thought it wouldn't fit under the tent."

This is the fourth consecutive year the church has put a float together to be presented in the parade, Brezler says.

"It's good evangelism," she adds. "It gets our name out to the people on the streets."

The Mummers' Parade generally includes about 10,000 parade participants and more than 50,000 spectators.

In years when weather conditions are favorable, crowds can be even larger, McCleaf says. With such large numbers, community groups, schools and churches have discovered that marching in the parade is a great way to get attention.

Nick Giannaris, owner and president of the Four Points Sheraton and co-owner of the Airport Inn, will be honorary grand marshal for the Alsatia Mummers' Parade

The Hancock Lions Club is putting together a parade entry that will showcase some of the charitable work they have done in recent years.

Several years ago, the club paid to have a horse-drawn sleigh and buggy restored. Both pieces dated to the 1920s and were originally built in Hancock, says James Smith, first vice president of the Hancock Lions Club. The two early forms of transportation reside at the Hancock Historical Museum, but will be on display during the Mummers' Parade.

"Over the years we have always done a themed display," Smith says of the Lions Club's involvement in the parade. "We always had a lot of fun doing it, but it never really gave people a realization of what we are doing." Showing the restored heritage pieces "is a way to show people what we are actually doing," Smith says. "It's good publicity for us, to let people know that we are still alive."

Area marching band students also look forward to the community event, says Bill Mott, band director for Clear Spring High School.

While marching, students get to share the musical skills they are learning, Mott says. "That's one way that we can give back to the community for all that they give to us," he says.

The Mummers' Parade "is one of the big parades we get to do right here in Washington County," Mott says. "The people really respond. They applaud and the kids get a good feeling from that."

Parade organizers hope that this year will be the first in many years that the parade includes horses. The Washington County Free Library system will have a replica of the first horse-drawn bookwagon carriage in the parade with a horse possibly pulling the replica. The current bookmobile will also be featured. The library is putting both pieces of bookmobile history on display because of the ongoing 100th anniversary of the bookmobile system.

The Mummers' Parade is the single largest event in Washington County, according to the Alsatia Club and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"It's quite a large Tri-State and regional event," says McCleaf. "It's the largest annual event the county has and certainly the city has. We sell tickets as far away as Baltimore."

The parade announcer and judges will be set up in front of Bester Elementary School on East Memorial Boulevard. Performing groups are required to perform at the three ticketed seating areas, including at the north end, near the Armory Building, at Public Square and in front of Bester Elementary.

A Coronation Ball is planned for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at the Elks Lodge on Robinwood Drive. The evening will include the crowning of the Mummers' Parade Queen 2005, dinner and dancing. Tickets for the ball are $20 per person.

"The draw (of the parade) is simply that it's a time when all the kids and basically everyone in the community get together. It's a chance for people to perform and show what they've worked so hard to do all year long," McCleaf adds.

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