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.

--Roy McBride, former festival coordinator, staff and contract artist, and volunteer, 1977 to present


There is a sentiment among some of my colleagues that these objects are really significant or sacred and should somehow be preserved. I, however, am a strong believer in the sanctity of the moment. And I have really enjoyed destroying the floats that I've worked on when May Day is over. Even if I stayed up until five a.m. that very morning finishing the painting. One year, I made this float called the Ever-Whirling Wheel of Change. I was very proud of it. Nonetheless, at six or seven that night, I said to a friend with a big flatbed truck who helps us load up the puppets and stage the floats--I said to Mike, "Would it be okay to run the truck over the Ever-Whirling Wheel of Change?" And he said, "We could do that." So I said, "Back it up!"

Gayla Ellis

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

11. Humpty-Dumpty Took a Big Fall

When I was there, Sandy was big on artistic vision and not big on how heavy this stuff is going to be when we carry it. If you were one of the people carrying it, that got to be a pet peeve after a while. And if you're a guy doing most of the heavy lifting and performing in some kind of feminist pageant where there's just sort of unidentified evil white male characters--the combination of that would start to be a little, uh, ironic.

--Steven Linsner


The first year that I really got involved, I made these giant puppets. Saturday afternoon, when I finally got one finished, I took it out up 15th to 29th and started walking back down to Lake Street. Suddenly the wind caught me, and I was flying down the street. I thought, "Either I have to run into a wall, or into Lake Street." I decided the wall probably would be better. Luckily, just as I got up on the sidewalk, the wind died down. I ended up cutting holes in the fabric so the wind could get through. But no one had told me that before I got out there.

--Roy McBride


Last year, I was a four-stilted ant--I think there were six of us doing it on hand and feet stilts. It was two hours from the time I got on 'em to the time I got off. I swear I tripped about 20 times plus.

The audience just loves it when you play with them, so of course I'd go right out into 'em: You put your front stilts out a bit and then bend down on your arms so that the head of the ant almost touches the head of the kid. They didn't know I was exhausted. When I got into the park, I stilted up onto the grass and just collapsed. Of course, once I got there, I realized that the puppet was pushing my face down into the grass, and my arms were up in front of me over my head, my feet were behind me, both sets were on stilts, and I was tied to this puppet. So I'm laying there with my face mashed into the grass, screaming: "Get me out of this thing!"

--Duane Tougas, staff artist since 1990, current technical director


The puppets break down all the time. There was the float that mangled the kid before the parade--you'll have to ask Jim Ouray about that one. Actually all the disasters I can think of were Jim Ouray puppets. He made a big giant wheel that crushed a guy named Richard in a big wind right before the parade started. In the only parade that I didn't see, there was a woman who fell off stilts and shattered both her wrists; I went to the hospital with her, rather than stay for the parade. I became a nurse, so that was kind of a pivotal moment: choosing between a theater that maims people and health care [laughs].

--Greg Leierwood, former staff artist, volunteer 1983 to present


12. Duct Tape

May Day used to break the back of the theater--financially and physically. Luckily, because [festival coordinator] Pablo is on year-round now, we've ironed out a lot of those kinks. At least it supports itself, which is really all we're after. So that come May 15, everyone still has their paycheck intact.


It costs about $100,000 to pull off. T-shirts and all of the paraphernalia that we sell at May Day brings in maybe $10,000 to $12,000. The tabloid brings in around $10,000. The vendor fees bring in about $10,000. The rest comes in through foundations and corporate support. About $25,000 comes from individuals. Our average gift is $50.

--Kathee Foran, administrative and public-relations support since 1991, current executive director


13. Commerce in the Temple

We try really hard to maintain the noncommercial tone of the event, so we ask people not to sell anything. We limit sales to food and to HOTB-related material, which generates revenue. It gets a little tricky. But we just have to say, "This is our party. These 50,000 people are here because of us and because of this event." And if we don't enforce that, we're going to have Mylar balloons, jewelry, and butterflies on every kid's face. There are people who--this is their religious holiday, and these are not religious people. They're hard-core. So I feel some responsibility to that.

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