Called the May Day parade by Minnesotans, it actually has been postponed a week due to snow in year’s past . This year it was scheduled and held on May 5, doing double duty as a Cinco de Mayo Festival. But the triple duty and main duty of this spirited Minneapolis tradition is to shout out that SPRING HAS ARRIVED! And indeed it did.
It still had that chill in the air at the start of the day, which made a trip to the May Day Café an appropriate first pit stop. Not only good coffee but treats of all kinds, including vegan, warmed spirits as some with oversized puppet masks mingled with the more sedately dressed not yet in parade regalia. This is one of many coffee houses serving tasty brew that Minneapolis St Paul seems to have no shortage of, nor scenic bike paths and lovely lakes. But this is the café that is so-named for this yearly rite of spring ritual and one which traces its origins to those of the parade.
Parking blocks away from the parade route we began to get in the spirit with neighborhood signs shouting a big hello. The Twin Cities is above all a friendly and relaxed place with more cozy neighborhood feel than downtown.
And then we arrived to a very child-centric crowd that followed courtesies, with the help of not a few cajoling grandmas, to give the children the best view.
The parade was actually part one of three, with the second being a pageant called “Tree of Life Ceremony” and then “The Festival” wrap up ending at sunset.
Created by “In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre” years ago, this annual ritual now, like most non-mainstream art events throughout the US, has negligible public funding. But THAT won’t stop this parade, if the spirit of crowd and parade alike is any indication.
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre says, “it combines flour, newspaper, paint, imagination and community input to tell stories that explore and celebrate the human experience and wonders of the world’s natural and cultural richness.
The parade program started with a long quote by Carl Sagan from “Pale Blue Dot: A vision of the Human Future in Space”. Then in rollicking street theater style the floats and puppets came by to visually tell the story of our planet’s frailty
the dangers of war and catastrophe from climate change and more..
But then the sunshine came—in the REAL world and in the parade story itself, as if Mother Nature was the biggest collaborator of all in the festivities. Off came the sweaters and sweatshirts. Out came the little children frolicking sleeveless.
And then came the puppets and floats that talked about the indomitable human spirit, told in a way that ONLY the thawing spirits of Minnesotan tundra can tell it.
From the first nations…
To the sources of life..
and the foods that sustain life and are life..
Hallelujah, it ended. The Grandmas and Grandpas sing! And homages to free speech followed.
Talk to a 30-something in the parade crowd and you learn that they as children had taken part in one or more years learning how to make puppets.
Hundreds combined to make this year’s parade and festival and thousands more have made this parade happen through the decades.
If you want to know how to REALLY celebrate spring’s arrival put the Twin Cities on your map for every May Day Parade. I’m sure going to!
Photos: Amy Munice