Here Comes the Sun

Help! I'm trapped inside a giant ant! Are you wearing clothes underneath that kale? What's that baby doing in the birthday cake? Tales of myth and magic from Minneapolis's May Day parade.

When we get in those canoes and bring the Sun across, it's the focus of 20,000 to 30,000 people: We've got to be together. If it fails, we are embarrassed forever--we are banished from Powderhorn Park. So we usually get up at 7:00, 8:00 a.m., have some breakfast somewhere, then load up the canoes and go to Powderhorn. There, we have some kind of meditation, some group singing, some group silence. The Sun Liner crew is right around 50 people. That makes it a significant circle.

--Loren Kellen, volunteer, late '70s to present


Gayla Ellis

The best moment for me is getting close to shore, and you have 30,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs: "Please come, Sun!" It's not so much us performing as it is being called across. The audience is as much a part of the story as we are.

--Ken Meter, carrying the Sun puppet since the early '90s


8. You Are My Sunshine

I did some research on Powderhorn Park and apparently, during the Depression, they had huge neighborhood "sings" across the city. And the competition was to have as many people turn out as possible. Powderhorn Park had won one year with, like, 40,000 people. "You Are My Sunshine" was mentioned as one of the songs. And I thought, well, here's not only a spring thing, but a historical deal.

--Steven Linsner, Heart of the Beast member, 1975 to 1980


9. Song of the Sore Throat

I've been the ceremony narrator with Jim Ouray since 1984. Up on stilts. There's a historic argument about whether we should be mic'ed or not. As you know, the crowds have gotten huger and huger, and it gets difficult to hear us. I've always thought we should be mic'ed. But we've never accomplished that. And that just shows the simplicity, the organic-ness, the always doing it the hardest way that is the beauty and the tragedy of HOTB. People worry about it growing too big and turning into a Macy's parade. And I just laugh at them.

--Nancy Olesen, staff and contract artist, 1982 to 1992


10. My Favorite Martian

Before they had the volunteer workshops, the puppet theater would rope in anybody that they knew who lived or worked in the neighborhood to help out. At the Foot of the Mountain Theatre would do a section of the parade. The one I remember most was when we became the Blue Ladies of Vietnam. We had these beautiful blue masks and clay pots we carried. The war was over by then, but it was still very present in our minds. So we were just women who wept for the dead. We wore brown robes, and the clay pots made this sort of kunk sound.

--Martha Boesing, volunteer since 1975 and a writer/director for Heart of the Beast productions The Nightingale (1986) and The Reaper's Tale (1989)


I was the first person to have kids within Heart of the Beast. So when Mose was born, the joy of it was really shared by the theater. It was the tenth May Day: The ceremony was a Happy Birthday for the Tree of Life. I was inside the big birthday cake. The smaller Tree of Life opened the top of the cake, and I popped Mose out. He had diapers on, and he was sort of a skinny, scrawny baby. And the Tree of Life held him up, as a gift of life for us all. My midwife was standing in the front. She was really appalled, she told me later. Her impulse was to grab him and run; she was like, "What's that baby doing out here with just a diaper on?"

--Esther Ouray, staff and contract artist, 1980 to present


This is my third year being in the HOTB parade. They came to my school once to do a whole big thing with the school about, like, growing. So we had little planters and raindrops and the sun and the moon. It was really fun. In the parade, I've been a planet--Earth, and my sister was Pluto. And there was one year that was about connecting, and we were in a section with bridges, and you made some kind of animal that was sort of curved, and in the parade you'd go around connecting it with other people's animals. I made a dolphin.

--Alex Sevett, age 10, volunteer


One of my favorite parades was the Ever-Whirling Wheel of Change year. They had a beautiful wheel all painted yellow; it was really heavy, with an axle that people pushed down the road. They had created walls, and each wall symbolized things--commercialism, racism, pollution--and the wheel busted through them. There are images that are absolutely sustaining. It was so powerful to see those walls come down.

--Margo McCreary, staff and contract artist, 1977 to present


The first time I saw the parade, I was blown away. But it wasn't until I was working at HOTB that I knew there was a story line in the parade. The year they had the walls, I didn't know what was going on. And the police thought they were protesters trying to block the parade! So the first couple times they put up the wall, the police were trying to take it down. It was like, "This parade is bad enough as it is, and here these guys are trying to stop it."

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