M uffy Pendergast expects about 300 heads at Westville’s Halloween parade this Sunday, and that’s not even counting the puppets.
It’s the annual Giant Puppet and People-Making-Mayhem Parade, whose newest inanimate marchers are still being prepped for primetime. With a big assist from the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance, Pendergast’s been leading open workshops in Edgewood Park’s Coogan Pavilion, where mothers, sons, fathers and daughters have used cardboard, papier-mâché and paint, among other methods and materials, to fashion creatures both benign and infernal—and where this essay’s photos were taken during a session last Saturday.
“There are some cats. There’s a crocodile. There’s a hedgehog. A couple of dragons are being made. I’ve seen bunny rabbits. I think a Cheshire Cat is in the works. I’ve seen Toodles, which I think is some character from a TV show. A butterfly. A sea creature,” Pendergast notes. As far as monsters go, there’s a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people-eater and Pendergast’s own “West Rock Troll,” a gargantuan villain with round red face, bulging purple eyes and long green fingers who’s a few years old now. Most if not all of the puppets are secured to sturdy bamboo poles, by which they’ll be hoisted through a half-hour circuit stepping off from West Rock and Whalley Avenues at 11 a.m.
Though the “Puppet” and “Mayhem” in the parade’s title get a lot of attention, it’s more fundamentally about the “People.” The advance workshops build a special kind of community—the kind that even a father and daughter from Meriden have been driving in each weekend to get—while the procession itself is peculiarly democratic. Unlike most parades, where the few march and the many watch, “Everyone is in this parade,” Pendergast says. You don’t even have to have a puppet in hand or, as is also encouraged, a Halloween costume on. You just have to show up. “I really want people to come together and create,” Pendergast says, whether they’re making papier-mâché animals or neighborhoody commotion.
The latter continues after the parade’s over, with a Halloween Party, co-hosted by CitySeed’s concurrent farmers’ market, at the near corner of Edgewood Park. “People end up on this beautiful farmers’ market scene, where we’ll have burlap sack races and apple-bobbing and other fall things,” she says, including “eating donuts off a string.”
But the puppets will still have their role to play. Organizers plan to arrange them into a sort of “photo booth background, so that everyone can pose with their puppets and friends”—between which, in the minds of particularly young or imaginative puppet-makers, there may not be a difference.
Giant Puppet and People-Making-Mayhem Parade
Location: Corner of Whalley and West Rock Avenues, New Haven.
Timing: Sunday, October 30, mustering at 10:30am and stepping off at 11.
Written and photographed by Dan Mims. Photo #17 depicts Muffy Pendergast outside Coogan Pavilion.