A group of twenty motorcycles parked along the curb with front wheels canted at a forty-five degree angle to the left. Several golf carts with decorations fastened to every available surface gathered on Aeropuerto Road – pointing north. A large decorated pickup truck, complete with a Christmas tree and a generator powering the Christmas lights swung into place at the head of the line! It’s a parade!
With the assistance of a local policeman, Sponge Bob (Jimmy Picuri) in his too-wide costume was stuffed into the back seat of his decorated golf cart, and then the parade participants were directed to turn their vehicles around and head south.
The Christmas tree truck and Santa lead the way. Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Elmo, Sponge Bob, two Santas, elves, a red-haired wood nymph, a pretty Disney princess, a reindeer-dog, dozens of kids and the motorcycles set off in a cloud exhaust, with horns honking. Surprisingly we weren’t very late getting started – about fifteen minutes behind schedule instead of the normal one to three hours.
Weeks before the parade date our friend Freddy Medina asked us if we would like to participate in the parade being organized by the dance troupe – Algeria y Pasion Carnavalesca. He asked us to wear our Mickey and Minnie costumes. He would wear our Elmo costume, and find two other friends to be Sponge Bob and Spiderman. We readily agreed. Then I started obsessing about the route, and the timing, and finding more friends to join in.
Daily emails to Freddy asking: “Do we know the route yet? Everyone is asking.” And the response was: “Not yet, or soon, or we have a meeting tomorrow. Don’t worry.”
In the end I stop fretting, and just trusted that someone would know what the heck was happening. I worried for naught. As it turns out the honking horns and backfiring motorcycles were all the notice that people needed to find the parade. And find us they did. The kids and adults came streaming out of houses and side streets laughing and calling out to the various participants. Handfuls of wrapped candy tossed towards the crowds created giggling pandemonium.
Those of us that were in costumes could not see very well. I had to keep asking my friend and driver, Marcy Watt, which way I should be looking and waving. Most of the time she couldn’t understand what I said; my words were muffled by the large padded head, sounding much like a mouse squeaking – or as we called it; mouse-speak. But we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Marcy repeated over and over how this night would always be a favourite Isla memory for her.
The kids were everywhere, shouting: Minnie, Minnie, Minnie. A few vehicles back, Mickey Mouse was experiencing the same reaction as we wound through small crowded streets. One small girl shouted Mickey’s name, until he hopped out of the golf cart and walked towards her, then she turned and ran screaming into the house. I guess the thought of a very large rodent hugging her was too much to contemplate.
As we turned the corner onto the larger road that passes the Super X-press in the colonias a group of thirty-something-men having a pre-Christmas celebration near Zina’s Guest House, shouted Mickey’s name. Mickey decided to get out of the golf cart and meet some of his fans. Oh, oh. Mistake. They whole heartedly embraced Mickey Mouse, tossing him into the air. Fortunately for everyone involved they caught him before he slammed onto the concrete. A hundred or so little kids watched in horrified suspense, wondering if their hero was going to be hurt.
Then the route turned back towards the north end of the island, winding through the tight one-way street system in Centro. We finished up on Medina Avenue lined up along the street, posing with locals who wanted to be photographed with the characters. Eventually the parade participants disbanded. We were exhausted, thirsty, hot, and soaked in perspiration. Our right arms ached from two hours of waving to the crowds.
However, Elmo, (Freddy Medina) was convinced to stay in costume and participate in the city parade, starting immediately after ours finished. Poor guy, he was in costume for four and a half hours. He likely lost ten pounds in fluids. Another islander, Ashley Blogins, mentioned that she had once worked at Disneyland, where characters were strictly monitored and allowed to stay in costume for ten-minute increments, according to the temperature.
Freddy my friend, you are a rock star!
Thank you again for a memorable experience, allowing your Disney friends to meet your Isla friends.
Happy New Year to Everyone
Lynda & Lawrie
PS: none of the parade photos are mine. It was impossible for me to take pics while dressed in costume. Thank you to Darren, Alexis, Deb, Francisco, Marcy, for letting us to use your photos for the blog this week.