An open field - nothing but a low platform graces the lawn,
AN EYEWITNESS REPORT
roughly decorated with a few ribbons. The sky is dim, clouds hanging
heavy in anticipation, a few wet drops scattering.
All at once, the fools arrive. They move with purpose, bundled
with props and fidgeting with their costumes. Eyes glitter through messes
of hair, absurdly cut coats and fantastic dresses. Some squat with mirrors,
busy with last touches of makeup,but a few early birds are
already doggedly in character - they make a beeline for giggling children,
sporting funny footsteps and toothy grins. Passing adults
doubletake in shock, or watch like voyeurs from sheltered vantage points.
At the treeline, a very tall man with a bulbous nose (he is on stilts)
seems casual as a small boy done up like a Keystone Kop dashes
between his legs, hot on a villain's trail. Meanwhile, their rears
to the public, a raucous, rag-tag band tunes up awkwardly,
emitting a painful variety of guttural blats and squawks
like a clatter of noisy birds.
The hour approaches. Drawn by curiosity and the pure,
electrical weirdness of it all, a crowd is starting to gather.
The level of chaos is increasing, more wacky visions appearing
from all directions; a panoply of fantastic characters,
from the innocent and sweetly shy to the wild and sexy,
and the grotesque and leering - all are permitted.
And the most heart-warming to see - the wonderfully crude
and wacky outfits that ordinary people dreamed up at home
just for this occasion - and are actually daring to wear in public.
Suddenly horns blare as a lone figure leaps to the rickety stage.
Staring down the assembled crowd, this obvious maniac struts
the small platform with irregular steps, wide eyes breaking
through a mess of crude white pancake and topped with a squashed felt hat.
He stops dead. Will he threaten us? Insult us? Then with the proud flourish
of a ringmaster, he proclaims: "WELCOME!! ONE AND ALL!!
WELCOME TO THE PARADE OF FOOLS!!!"
Boom! Everyone whoops and cheers, and on this cue, various characters
rush the platform, which is buckling visibly. They clamour for attention,
having prepared some obscure ceremony for this year's theme of "Church versus State";
and, spouting gibberish which is peppered with loud fanfares (and a barely recognizable
'O Canada') they generally make faces and rude comments to the crowd.
We are all laughing, it is so absurd.
Yes, the sky is blackening but with merciful luck, the downpour
is holding off. Then, some business with a creme pie; and various pies
fly through the air until the unfortunate climax, a direct hit
on the too-nosy lens of a very dismayed photographer.
But apologies will have to wait. The stiltwalkers, firebreathers
and giant puppets are chomping at the bit. The musicians are going wild.
Every conga drummer and his dog have jumped into the act.
A bundle of sticks are frantically passed round, dangling shiny bits
of fabric, and just in time to greet the glorious Ship
of Fools, a clumsy cardboard hull which breaks through the crowd... Onward!
The 15th annual Fool's Parade is off!
With a roar, the group of several hundred fools weave ecstatically
down the hill, balloons and children trailing.
Someone's still backstage, pulling on their pants. Come on, the parade's leaving!
Don't be late! This is obviously going to be a hell of a lot of fun,
and it may even last all day.