Liberty Parade returns to Todd
by Kellen Moore
Wrong, at least when it comes to the Todd Liberty Parade, a unique participatory parade that makes use of handmade props and larger-than-life puppets and costumes.
The parades, hosted annually by the nonprofit Elkland Art Center, typically involve nature and environmental themes, and this year is no different. The parade will celebrate the element of air with its "Viva La LibAIRTodd" theme.
"In this case, thinking about air, we kept thinking, well, how do we portray air? What does it look like?" said Martha Enzmann, founder and vice president of Elkland Art Center. "And we came up with things that are moved by air."
Expect to see windsocks, pinwheels, birds, clouds and other items that conjure up images of air and wind processing July 4 down Railroad Grade Road in Todd.
Elkland staff and community volunteers have been preparing for the parade for months, creating props, dying fabrics and crafting giant faces from papier-mâchè.
The 2012 parade also will incorporate Latino themes, including ideas of north and south winds and migration, Enzmann said. Many of the materials have been created through Ashe County 4-H children's workshops, which include a sizeable Hispanic population.
While no parade is exactly the same as the previous year, Enzmann said the Elkland staff has learned the recipe for a successful parade: large scale, multiples of items, props and costumes with different elevations, and active, moving parts.
The result is a true spectacle.
"People love it," Enzmann said. "I think they're astonished. I think they're kind of taken out of themselves and their usual world. We sort of like the idea that people seem to love to dress up in these outlandish outfits."
This year's parade will also conclude with a skit and celebration at Walter and Annie Cook Memorial Park with food and music from local band Henhouse Thieves.
The massive community celebration is brought to life with only a few grants, in-kind donations from area businesses and donations from the community, Enzmann said. The Elkland Art Center is working to raise $6,000 in donations — only a portion of the total cost — before July 4 at http://bit.ly/LibertyDayParade.
"It does have an economic effect, and I think it also creates and fosters community, as well as environmental awareness and creativity," Enzmann said.
There are still opportunities to work hands-on with the project. The final free pre-parade workshop will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Old Bank Building, located beside the Todd Mercantile at 3899 Railroad Grade Road.
Residents and visitors also can participate in the parade by meeting at 10:30 a.m. July 4 at the corner of N.C. 194 and Railroad Grade Road in Todd. The parade will start at 11 a.m.
Enzmann said last year's parade included about 300 participants, and she hopes for even more this year.
"When we started, everybody was in the parade — we didn't have onlookers," she said. "We still would prefer that people come prepared to be in the parade."