Performers Bring Spark to Parade

By Abby Duker
UJW Staff Writer

WASHINGTON–It took Toodles the Clown 45 minutes to put on makeup, and then came the petticoat, apron, bloomers and brightly-colored wig she picked out the night before.

To become Toodles, Diane Jones woke up at six on the morning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. She and the rest of the Kapitol Klowns went out in front of a diverse crowd of thousands with balloons, horns and a large banner displaying their logo.

“We do lots of parades in the DC area, but this one is exciting because everyone seems to have a great, positive energy,” Jones said. “People seem to enjoy seeing the clowns, and it kept us moving through the parade. [But] we were behind the Mustangs, so we had to keep lagging back so we didn’t asphyxiate!”

Performers from more than 100 different groups marched about one mile through the heart of Northwest DC, entertaining parade-goers both new and old. Though these entertainers all performed in the parade, their individual experiences were unique and varied.

Some local organizations and groups came via Metro. Others, like colorguard member Reagan Vail, crossed state lines.

“We took a charter bus up here on Thursday with our whole band and our stuff,” said Vail, from the Tuscaloosa County High School band in Alabama. “I was excited but I slept most of the ride up here.”

Some performed months in advance, waking up at the crack of dawn to ensure that everything went as planned. For University of Maryland’s Gymkana, that meant making extra preparations for equipment so they could do “high speed flips and tricks for the crowd,” gymnast Alex Mateik said.

“Most of us woke up around 4:30 so that we could be at our gym at 6 am, load up a truck, come [here], unload a truck, while running and place our equipment down so we could perform,” Mateik said. “As soon as we were finished, we folded the equipment back up and placed it back in the moving truck. Then we did it all again.”

Gymkana practiced for months, but others coordinated their routines in a shorter amount of time. R&B Singer Mya met some of her dancers about two weeks ago.

“The four girls that you see, this is their first job with me,” Mya said. “But these [two other male performers] have been with me for five years. And everyone’s from DC.”

Tycho drummer Cassandra Chin came with the Chin Hama Culture Center which specializes in Okinawan and Japanese cultural awareness. This was her fifth year.

“We have to make all the costumes from scratch,” Chin said. “We like for our group to show people the culture in every way we can.”

When the festival had come to a close, it was back to business as usual for the performers.
“We’re going to head home,” Mateik said. “It’s a Saturday and we all have other things to do.”


Founded in 1975, the Washington Association of Black Journalists is an organization of Black journalists, journalism professors, public relations professionals and student journalists in the D.C., metro area. WABJ provides members with ongoing professional education opportunities and advocates for greater diversification of the profession.