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Rutland Herald: "Rutland parade is the big 5-oh!"

November 1, 2009
In The News

Thousands came for the costumed bands, the illuminated floats, the sweets and screams flying through the air.

Michael and Bonny Durkin? They came for love.

In 1987, the two wed in Shakespearean dress before riding in Rutland's annual Halloween Parade. Saturday, they marked their 22nd anniversary by celebrating the march's 50th year.

"It's my favorite holiday," he said.

"It's our favorite holiday," she amended.

The couple, partying with family and friends on a downtown sidewalk, soon slipped into King Neptune and mermaid costumes — a swimmingly fitting choice for a dark and stormy night.

Since starting the parade in 1960, the city's Recreation Department has canceled only once (in 1962) and since responded to rain by postponing to the next night.

But with today's forecast no drier than Saturday's, organizers decided to wade through showers rather than, as on Nov. 1, 1993, find themselves pelted by snow.

Back at the first parade, bands from Rutland High School and nearby Mount St. Joseph Academy escorted hundreds of costumed children.

On Saturday, Rutland High musicians again led what's now believed to be the nation's oldest continuing Halloween Parade, this time helped by almost 100 skeletons from the percussion group Drum Journeys of Earth (Mount St. Joseph no longer has a band) and tailed by nearly 100 floats and marching units.

The local Carris Reels factory honored the parade's longtime leader Tom Fagan, who died just before the 2008 march at age 77, with a float that depicted his love of costumed superheroes.

Equally high-flying, Rutland Intermediate School presented a larger-than-life Superman float — 21 feet "from fist to foot," said art teacher Deb Dauphinais.

The parade's 50th anniversary inspired a veritable clothesline of floats remembering the sock hop.

Catamount Radio and West Rutland's Fabian Earth Moving each served up 13-foot birthday cakes.

"Just enough to get under the wires," WJJR-FM announcer Terry Jaye said.

The Royal Group of Rutland unleashed a similarly tall King Kong battling 1930s biplanes and, worse, gusts that threatened to blow the top off a cardboard Empire State Building.

"We'll just go with what we've got," said builder Vicki Vest, trying to contain the beast with plastic tarps and trash bags.

The Rutland High School Art Club, which has presented papier-mâché satire since 1990, offered up a Bread and Puppet version of pop singer Lady Gaga. Its message?

"Lady Gaga is not a man," said the less-than-soprano voice underneath, which sounded too much like art teacher Fred Lower.

Other grass-roots groups expressed more serious statements, be it the "Rutland County Healthcare Is a Human Right" campaign or the "Save the Library" effort to renovate the facility's current space in a building that once housed the city's courthouse and jail.

Rutland's Good Shepherd Lutheran Church shook, rattled and rolled with long biblical hair and loud Jackson 5 hits to proclaim "Jesus Rocks."

The Rutland County Nutrition Coalition's tresses were comparatively frightful.

"We're witches with strong bones and healthy teeth," one cackled.

State officeholders in attendance covered the political spectrum, from Democratic Rep. Peter Welch to Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. But politicians found themselves trumped in popularity by Halloween Queen Emily Oberg, a Rutland High senior, and her six teen Pumpkin Princesses from surrounding schools.

The parade ended with the unmasking of Jack O'Lantern mystery citizen Betty Mumford, a 40-year Recreation Department employee who retired in 2004. She summed up the hour of wet weather and scary spectacle: "It's a lot of fun."


Award winners:

Floats — best, Royal Group, runner-up Central Vermont Public Service; most original, Fabian Earth Moving, runner-up Rutland Town Cub Scout Pack 114; most creative, Proctor High School, runner-up Rutland Area Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice; Tom Fagan 50th award, Carris Reels

Bands/marching units — best costumes, Proctor High and Drum Journeys of Earth, runners-up Rutland Town School and Rutland High School Art Club