The Marginal Arts Festival Parade was an annual event, coinciding with the Roanoke Marginal Arts Festival. It was introduced to the festival’s lineup of events in 2009, the second year of the Marginal Arts Festival, and ran for six years. It was inspired and modeled after the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade and the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race. I served as organizer of the event, and also as a contributor, designing and building a small float (aka a mobile sculpture) each year. All of this was done with a very modest budget. The parade was an inclusive community event that anyone could participate in. In fact the parade couldn’t happen without the community, therefore the parade was a collaboration that was as good as what everyone made it to be. The parade also functioned as the MAF’s very public spectacle, celebration of the arts, and promotion, like the circus parade that announces that the show is in town. The parade was always linked with an event that would keep the party going post parade, which became known as the MAF Absurdist Street Carnival in later years.
The 1st Annual Marginal Arts Festival Parade
The 1st Annual Marginal Arts Festival Parade, aka The 1st Annual Hoo-Rah Marginal Arts Festival Parade, was on Friday, February 20th, 2009 at 5pm. The permit regulated us to the sidewalk. We marched from the MLK Bridge to the Roanoke Main Library, passing through the Roanoke Market Square, where the Post-Neo Absurdist Anti-Collective were performing Ubu Enchained. They joined the procession for the rest of the way to the library, where The Hoo-Rah-Art-Explosion-Event was scheduled to happen after the parade. We didn’t have a budget, and didn’t have a float that year, just whatever costumes people came up with. There were about fifty participants in the parade.
Here is a Brooklyn Rail article about the parade.
The 2nd Annual Marginal Arts Festival Parade
In 2010 the Marginal Arts Festival Parade saw several changes. Hoo-Rah was dropped from the name of the event. The time changed to Saturday at noon, which would become a permanent change for future MAF Parades. The parade route changed, we assembled at Community High School and marched to the Main Library (where another event would happen post parade). We got a permit that allowed us to march in the street, the way a parade is supposed to be, and we made a small float. The Art Rat was a collaborative effort. John Johnson helped with the welding and chassis construction, and Danger Brooke helped with sewing the fur onto the rod work rat sculpture. River Laker drove the pedal powered float in the parade.
Art Rat Fabrication Photos
The 3rd Annual Marginal Arts Festival Parade
In 2011 the Marginal Arts Festival Parade saw the addition of Absurdist Street Carnival at the end of the parade route. A new float wasn’t constructed this year, but the Art Rat made another appearance. The highlight for this year was getting Bread and Puppets Theater from Vermont to participate in the parade. They also performed several more times throughout the festival. With most of the local media giving the MAF Parade some promotion, we had gained a bit of a reputation in the community, so participation and spectators grew. Another highlight was a performance of Phillip Conner’s Fluxus score Piano Activities (1962).
The 4th Annual Marginal Arts Festival Parade
In 2012, for the 4th Annual Marginal Arts Festival Parade a new float was constructed, and the Art Rat float was modified. At the end of the parade route the year before, the chassis failed, and the float collapsed in the middle. As a remedy, the bicycle part of the float was removed, and replaced with a lone swiveling wheel and a shackle to attach a rope to pull the float. The new float was a collaborative effort that partnered the MAF Parade with Olin Hall Galleries’ The Roanoke Valley Reef: A Satellite of the Worldwide Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project, and dancers from City Modern Ensemble. The float design was a giant undulating octopus. An eight foot head ball with ten foot long flexible tentacles were animated by the dancers who wore costumes adorned with pieces of the crocheted coral reef sculptures. Assisting with fabrication of the float were Jennifer Crow, Talia Logan, Lee Melozzi, and Brian Counihan. Two large puppets were also made for the parade. One puppet was the festival’s beloved logo/mascot, a rubber chicken, and the other puppet was the infamous pepper spraying Officer Pike. The two puppets were carried in the parade by the Roanoke chapter of the Occupy Movement. At the end of the parade the two puppets duke it out, like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots … of course, the rubber chicken wins. Brian Counihan painted a large Marginal Arts Festival banner, which debuted in this parade.
Parade Art Fabrication Photos
The 5th Annual Marginal Arts Festival Parade
In 2013 the Marginal Arts Festival partnered with the Star City Creator Society, who contributed circus themed events to the festival. New floats were designed in accordance with the circus theme. A pair of oversized clown shoes, and a circus wagon were constructed for the parade. The float fabrication team was made up of Chris Cobb, Carole Hughes, and Brian Counihan. The octopus float from the previous year was reworked into a giant sugar skull, and was painted by students at Community High School. The Art Rat made it’s customary appearance in the parade.
Parade Art Fabrication Photos
2013 MAF Parade photos by Sam Hensley, Chelsea Brandt, and Lloyd Wiser.
The 6th Annual Marginal Arts Festival Parade
In 2014 I didn’t have space in my studio to construct new floats, as I was busy preparing for a museum show and a solo show, so we recycled the floats from the year before. By this time many people in the community were fans of the MAF Parade, so it was a good opportunity for the community to answer the call …
Calling all artists, musicians, drummers, dancers, performers, bicyclists, activists, absurdists, and anyone else interested in creating a public spectacle in the streets of downtown Roanoke! It’s almost time again for the Annual Marginal Arts Festival Parade and Absurdist Street Carnival. This year the parade will be on Saturday, March 29th. We will begin assembling at Community High School at 11am, and we’ll march at noon. We’ll loop around downtown Roanoke, and end up back at Community High School where the Absurdist Street Carnival will be waiting to receive us. As always, all you need to do to participate is just show up on parade day with whatever it is that you want to contribute to the parade, and be ready to march at noon. Join us as we all march out of step together!
Here is a Roanoke Times article on the 2014 festival, parade, and carnival.