‘World’s Shortest Parade’ ready to get its groove back
THE HERE & NOW: Wallace Baine dancing like God’s own fool as a Great Morgani clone is the kind of vibe Aptos’ Independence Day parade aims for — big dollops of wholesome Americana seasoned with only-in-Santa-Cruz eccentricity — as it returns from its COVID-19 break.
They call it the World’s Shortest Parade. But when you’re dressed like a clown, dancing around like God’s own fool, and doing a bad job at impersonating someone else, trust me, it doesn’t feel particularly short. It was a half-mile that felt like a half-marathon.
The Independence Day Parade in Aptos returns this year on July 4 for the first time since 2019. And, like everything else reemerging from the lost pandemic year, the parade gets a reset. I suspect that the parade will pop right back into place as a showcase for the personality and spirit of the Mid County communities that make it happen. But after a two-year absence — I mean, the most recent parade was in the previous decade — maybe we’re due for a reminder of that spirit.
Ten years ago, I got to participate in the Independence Day Parade dressed up as — and no, this was not a dream — The Great Morgani. My friend Frank Lima, the brilliant artist behind the surrealistic accordionist, invited my wife, Tina, and me to be part of a crazy idea. For some unknown reason, the sci-fi notion of human cloning was on Frank’s mind and he concocted a project to get together a small team of Morgani “clones” to march in the Aptos parade.
So Frank and about a half-dozen of us all dressed in identical outfits, complete with accompanying accordions and identity-hiding masks, to unleash the Morgani’s clone army on delighted (or puzzled) parade watchers.
As all veteran Santa Cruzans know, Morgani is famous for his eye-popping spandex outfits, which shrink-wrap his particular body type in a way that makes him identifiable, even if everything else is hidden from view. To avoid that particular tell, he designed a costume — colored to resemble your grandma’s vinyl table cloth — that featured a hula hoop around the waist. The idea was to disguise which one of us was the real Morgani (Pro tip: The one who could actually play the accordion? That was the real guy).
Was it fun? Like a barrel full of monkeys. But we wanted to be true to Frank’s concept. And that meant we had to put on a show. We had to be Morgani clones, so no chatting, no exposing our faces. We all were watching Frank for our cues on how to walk and dance, how to behave in costume. Frank’s inconspicuous accordion-playing acted as a kind of ventriloquist act as the rest of us pretended to play.
After this absurd masquerade was over, I was thus attired, like a colorblind alien who had somehow swallowed a wagon wheel, when I first met in person our longtime congressman, Sam Farr. To the congressman’s credit, he barely acknowledged my ridiculous presentation (though it’s possible he could have thought I was, in fact, Morgani).
There were several more traditional attractions in the parade that day. But that mixture captures exactly the typical vibe of the parade — big dollops of wholesome Americana seasoned with only-in-Santa-Cruz eccentricity. And this year, we might all treasure it a bit more than usual.
The Aptos Independence Day Parade takes place Sunday, beginning at around 10 a.m. at the corner of Soquel Drive and State Park Drive, continuing to Aptos Village at Trout Gulch Road. A super-cool new T-shirt design is available at aptoschamber.com. For more info, call (831) 688-1467.
Hope to see you there, in disguise or otherwise.
The other big Fourth of July celebration comes to us from the other end of the county. The city of Scotts Valley will also be celebrating Independence Day with an afternoon parade (beginning at 3 p.m.) and a flyover. The parade takes place at Scotts Valley Drive between Carbonero Way and El Pueblo Road.
And, remember, fireworks are a no-no at both Independence Day celebrations.
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