“We want anyone of any age to join,” said organizer Eileen Hedley. “It’s an art parade” and one that welcomes “any effort large or small.”
The Phools Parade in New Paltz took off in a way that the people putting it on almost couldn’t comprehend. But the celebration itself seems to combine the raw talent of local artists -- coming from as far as Rhinebeck or Woodstock, to as near as the SUNY New Paltz Art Department -- with the strange fantasy of Mardi Gras and Halloween.
And New Paltz is a town that takes Halloween and dressing up pretty seriously.
The 2010 parade featured people dressed as birds, giant paper mache-headed dolls dancing in a bizarre procession, kids dressed in flowers and bric-a-brac, and local rockers Los Doggies. When the parade ended at Water Street Market, the plaza was filled almost to the brim, making just walking around a bit of a challenge.
Despite having struck on what is apparently right up New Paltz’s alley, even the Phools Parade organizers were taken by surprise when more than 250 people showed up on a gray and rainy day.
“That’s another reason we changed the parade route,” Hedley said. Ending at Market Street made for too cramped a final destination. The hope is this year that the ultimate stop in Hasbrouck Park will give people a chance to mingle. In the press, people lost some of their ability to check out the art.
“This will give everybody a chance to check out what everyone has done,” she explained.
Other changes this year will include the use of motor vehicles in the parade. Both the New Paltz Fire Department and Huguenot Farm will be rolling down the street and keeping the parade in step. Judges will also be a bit of a mystery this year.
“Local artists in disguise will be judging,” Hedley said, noting that people will know who is a judge by a special blue Phools Parade badge they’ll wear, but other than that their identity will be concealed until the end.
Staying the same in 2011 will be the featured band -- Los Doggies -- and the grand marshals Eva Tenuto and Julie Novak will return.
The new improved parade route starts at New Paltz Middle School, heads down Main, takes a turn down Plattekill Avenue and ends up in the park.
Many of the same groups that sponsored the parade last year will also be back. A new sponsor this year, Enchanted Toys, will have a special role too.
“They are donating 100 pinwheels to the first children who get there,” the parade organizer said.
In 2010, Phools Parade started when the members of New Paltz Art Loop -- Hedley, Melanie Cronin and Steve Jordan -- were brainstorming to find a way to highlight the art scene in town.
“It just came up one night after the meeting,” she explained. With a tagline of “Come as You Art,” the parade went forward last year and did well, and the rest is history.
For more information about Phools Parade 2011, head to www.phoolsparade.com or search for “Phools Parade” on Facebook. A video of the festivities from last year can be seen at the Phools Parade website.
Participants should gather at the middle school on Saturday, April 16 at 1 p.m. They’ll begin the march at 2 p.m. People who want to register a motor vehicle as a float in the parade still have a bit of time left, and they should find a vehicle registration form on the website as well.