Friday, July 10, 2009

Giant Puppets Take to the Streets of City Heights for 4th Annual Celebration

At 9:30 am Tuesday, July 14, 2009, San Diego Guild of Puppetry lead artist, Felix Diaz’s whistle will blow. Drum groups from Monroe Clark Middle School and Hoover High will set the beat, and 450 Monroe Clark Middle School 6th graders will march to Rosa Parks Elementary School, carrying giant puppets and banners, for the 4th annual, “Welcome to Middle School” parade. Upon reaching Rosa Parks Elementary, the middle schoolers will be joined by Rosa Parks’ graduating 5th graders bearing their own dragon masks. After parading before the K-5 student body, the procession, now nearly 700 strong, will march together back to Monroe Clark, marking, in a larger than life celebration, the elementary schoolers’ passage into middle school.

Those watching this City Heights community parade will see students’ artistic interpretations of the cultural themes explored in the social studies curriculum. African effigy figures from last year’s parade will be joined by giant snakes, inspired by the mythic Quetzalcoatl, the Mesoamerican plumed serpent god. This year a host of Southeast Asian dragons in both mask and giant form will be added to the celebration. Funding for the original parade in 2005 came from an Arts and Culture Community Impact grant from The San Diego Foundation, with additional and continuing funding every year from A-I-S grants from the California Arts Council, a state agency, the NEA, a federal agency, the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, and the Dr. Seuss Foundation. This support has kept the parade going and growing into an annual event that celebrates student transition to middle school, while spotlighting cultures, collaborative effort and community.

In these schools and in others throughout the city, the San Diego Guild of Puppetry is hard at work to make giant puppet pageantry an important element in the San Diego community at large. Multi-community giant puppet parades have been held at the Theatre of the World Festival at San Diego State University for the past three years. The New Children’s Museum opened last year with a “Children’s Giant Puppet Parade” created by the Guild, and smaller parades are held at varying locations around the county, often including celebrations of Dia de los Muertos. Lynne Jennings, Guild Board Chair explains: “Giant puppetry, by its very size, inspires awe. It builds stronger communities, as individuals become part of a committed team effort. It engenders the realization that working together, people can effect powerful and positive change. It invites participants and spectators of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds to join hands in celebration!”

Everyone is invited to watch the City Heights parade at 9:30 on July 14 with excellent viewing at the Monroe Clark field, the Rosa Parks playground or along the 45th Street parade route. The parade will start at the Monroe Clark Middle School field, go east on Myrtle and then north on 45th to Rosa Parks. After circling the elementary school playground, students will retrace their steps back to the middle school.