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Pedal Power in the MayDay Parade!


The MayDay Parade put on by In the Heart of the Beast Theater in Minneapolis epitomizes my favorite aspects of the Twin Cities – the sense of community, creativity and artistry, progressive politics, and people-powered movement. Everything in the parade is handmade and foot driven – whether by walking, stilting, or pedaling. Roughly 2,000 community members participate and tens of thousands more watch as the parade dances and rolls down Bloomington, culminating in a ceremony in Powderhorn Park.

I’ll return to more commuting-centered posts soon, but first, I want to highlight the ingenuity of the bikes, trikes, and other geared, pedaled creations in the 38th Annual MayDay Parade. Bikes were even more prominently featured than usual since this year’s theme was Transition Town! Usually the first Sunday in May, this year’s parade was postponed due to weather and held on May 13th.

The community comes together to discuss the story line in February, talking about hopes and challenges we experience together. With the help of professional puppet artists (there are more of these in the Twin Cities than you can imagine) a five stage parade full of symbolism and papier mache is created at community workshops. This blog is about bikes, so you’ll have to Google search elsewhere to find photos of stilt-walking cranes and electrical plug gremlins.

The people-watching starts early as everyone arrives. I have never seen so many small children in box cycles! This family made me smile:


Then the show got rolling. Beavers with tools made things work with what they had. This working beaver is riding a NiceRide bike:


The Beavers escorted a Community Bike Shop float, which was created by volunteers from Grease Rag, Venture North, the Midtown Greenway Coalition, and the Seward Neighborhood Group (just to name a few!) Check out that crescent wrench helmet!


Sloths encouraged us all to slow down and take our time.



MayDay is definitely an all-ages event. A friend and I joked about renting a pedi-cab next year so that his mom, who has mobility problems, could participate. It’s also never too early to start, as this sloth demonstrates:


Coordinating your bike and your costume is an important aspect of MayDay participation. This zebra shows us how it’s done:


Dragons brought good energy for new beginnings in the Year of the Dragon:

After the official parade storyline is through, the community can march in the Free Speech section, advocating for their group or cause. These three men were promoting solar power:

Finally, the parade would not be complete without some home-welded creations. This is only part of what was one of the most impressive physical structures in the parade. Like a giant pedal pub, 10 people are powering this thing (5 pedaling on each side) and it takes an 11th to steer.

These pictures don’t come close to approximating the experience of sharing an almost 40 year old participatory artistic tradition with 30,000+ other people. To see more photos of the entire parade, visit http://www.hobt.org, or just put Sunday, May 4, 2013 on your calendar now. MayDay is perhaps my favorite event of the year, and I’m already looking forward to the 39th Annual Parade!


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