A former Providence Journal columnist introduces you to the quintessential Rhode Islandits iconic foods (coffee milk, the Awful Awful, Del’s lemonade, and Yacht Club Soda); its iconic monuments (the two-ton termite known as The Big Blue Bug, the Superman Building, and Mr. Potato Head); and its iconic events (Parade of the Ancients and Horribles, Best Dressed State Trooper Awards, and the Fools Regatta).
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Rhode Island CuriositiesQuirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff
By Brown, Seth
Globe PequotCopyright © 2007 Brown, Seth
All right reserved.
Parade of Horribles
When someone refers to a "parade of horribles," they usually mean a slippery slope argument talking about all the horrible things that could happen. But usually, people aren't in Chepachet. Because Chepachet plays host each year to an actual parade of horribles on the Fourth of July, as many despicable things wind their way down the streets. Yes, the Ancients and Horribles parade is quite real, and appropriately, both ancient and horrible.
It all began back in 1927, when the first Ancients and Horribles parade was held. Some say that the name was invented as a mockery of an old Boston organization called the Ancients and Honorables. Others say that it's a more straightforward combination of two early-twentieth-century events: an ancient parade on wheels all pulled by a trolley when the town first got a trolley line and a horribles parade of men costumed in various Halloweenish garb. But whatever the origin of the name, the Ancients and Horribles parade has continued to grace the Main Street of Chepachet for many decades, in a bizarre combination of political roast, halloween pagent, and patriotic parade.
On the one hand, you've got the Ancients. The smartly dressed marching bands, the honorable color guards, patriotic floats honoring the military or the country's founding fathers,and various other people all paying homage to the Fourth of July. But much more interesting are the Horribles, which mock everything from local issues to national scandals. One year after a new "Curves" exercise business had opened in the town, the parade featured a float labelled as "Pervs," which featured men dressed up as women in female exercise clothes, and then exercising. Hollywood movies also get mocked, such as in the 2006 float "Brokeback Island: But Pirates, Not Cowboys," which lampooned Pirates of the Caribbean and Brokeback Mountain.
What's the secret to getting really zany floats? A complete lack of restrictions on entry! Anyone at all can participate in the parade, which leads to some fairly irreverent floats and paraders that would surely be stopped at any other parade. Like the man dressed as Patrick Kennedy driving a green cardboard car, mocking the young Kennedy's crash into a barricade on Capitol Hill. And what did the fake car say on the back? "But I still drive better than my dad (splash)". Now that's irreverence. Or better yet, the float of Dick Cheney's Hunting Party, lampooning the Vice President for shooting a lawyer in the face while quail hunting. A would-be Dick Cheney was clad in orange hunting gear, surrounded by fallen bodies mottled with blood. Now that's what I call a parade. Could anything possibly stop such a wonderful tradition?
Actually, yes. Waking up early could stop it, and almost did. For over seventy-five years since its beginning in 1927, the parade was held in the late afternoon. But in 2004, the Police Department asked that the parade start in the morning to discourage public alcohol consumption. The turnout was...well, horrible. Almost nobody showed up to march in the parade. The 11:00 a.m. starting time was repeated in 2005, and the pathetic lack of attendence was also repeated. But never let it be said that the Glocester Town Council can't learn from experience. For the 2006 parade, they reverted to the ancient late afternoon start time and began at 4:00 p.m. And once again, the crowds showed up, and all was well.
If you want more information about the parade, you can contact the Chairperson Connie Leathers at (401) 864-8239. But be warned: Since anyone can march in the parade, even the parade committee has no idea how many participants they will have until shortly before the parade. Still, in addition to the surrounding activities like clowns and face painting, you can count on marching bands, military units, and various floats that are bound to make you smile. Just so long as they don't hold it in the morning.
Excerpted from Rhode Island Curiosities by Brown, Seth Copyright © 2007 by Brown, Seth. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents(1) Introduction (2) Providence County (3) Providence (the city) (4) Kent County (5) Washington County (6) Bristol County (7) Newport County (8) Index
These state-specific books describe, with humor and affectionand a healthy dose of attitudethe oddest and most outlandish places, personalities, events, and phenomena found within a state’s borders. Each book includes quirky black-and-white photographs, regional locator maps, and entertaining sidebars.