A 188-year-old Mary Wade wearing a hot Victorian crimson red dress got a little competition for attention from Elvis Friday.
The rock icon, aka George Creamer, a six-year-resident of the Mary Wade Home, was captured by the paparazzi passing out colorful leis in honor of the film Blue Hawaii.
The scene of the Elvis sighting was the always fun and festive inter-generational Fair Haven Community Parade hosted for the ninth year running by the Mary Wade Home.
More than 900 marchers, comprising 11 area schools, including their marching bands and dance troupes, and other community groups promenaded and serenaded more than a hundred senior residents.
The older folks sat waving at them from beneath broad sun hats and colorful umbrellas set up in front of Mary Wade’s main building on Pine Street.
“Our residents [generally speaking] don’t see parades any more, so we bring the parade to them and give them VIP seats,” said Mary Wade President and CEO David Hunter.
That’s one of the reasons why Mary Wade, an anchoring institution in Fair Haven, launched the parade, Hunter said. Others reasons include wanting to honor veterans around the Memorial Day weekend, acknowledging May, which is Older Americans Month, and also helping to bring together the local Fair Haven community, celebrating its history and diversity.
To that end the parade gives a leadership award every year and this year the recipient was Maria Melendez, hailed as one of the “founding mothers” of another community anchor, the Fair Haven Community Health Center, which she helped to establish in 1971.
After more than 40 years of service to the center, she still works as a part time translator and hails the sense of continuity, from generation to generation, that the FHCHC provides.
Among the highlights of the parade were the rousing tunes played the 45-member band of the Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School, as the paraders formed up in Chatham Square Park and headed down Clinton Avenue taking the firt right to the Mary Wade Home.
Group after group passed by, pausing at mid-block on Pine to perform special renditions for the waving and appreciative seniors.
The residents included Eileen Daniel, who said the last parade she had seen was ten years ago, in Milford. Sensations all around her, she not only heard the music but received the hugs of Mary Wade volunteer Camilla Crowell, who defied the heat of the day in costume and make-up as Bubbles the Clown, complete with a red Styrofoam nose.
With Elvis already down Atwater Street and heading for Grand Avenue, on the final loop of the parade, Arline Utrera and the 22 other members of her John S. Martinez School dance group wowed the crowd with their rhythmic moves and colorful pompoms.
After a 35-minute circumambulation, the paraders strutted up Clinton, and made their way into the elegant green gardens behind the Mary Wade Home. There the aim was to shed [for some] banners, drums, and tubas, and to partake of 2,000 slices of pizza (make that 200 pies), 2,000 chocolate chip cookies, 1,500 bananas, and hastily ripped open cases of bottled water, many of those items generously donated by area merchants.
There Melendez got her award, hailed by Hunter as having a lived a life reflecting a core value that “health care is a right not a privilege.”
That was OK with Elvis, who also posed with district top cop Sgt. Renee Dominguez, and got himself some Italian ices to cool off.
“They asked me to wear the [Elvis] wig. I said, ‘No way.’ If it was cooler, I’d do it,” Elvis said.
He said he plans on buying another Elvis costume, while he sends the one he was wearing out for cleaning. He plans to put on his next Elvis performance on Aug 16, the anniversary of Elvis’s death, and two days before his own birthday.
In Mary Wade institutional news, Hunter said the organization is growing. It is scheduled to break ground in the coming months on a new building situated mid-block on Clinton between Pine and Grafton. The new three-story structure will have 89,000 square feet and have space for 89 residents in assisted-living arrangements, with a special focus on memory care.
All the approvals are in hand, Hunter said.
Currently Mary Wade serves 94 folks in skilled nursing care, 60 in the adult day care center, and 45 residents in apartments with assisted living arrangements, said Mary Wade, aka Tiffany Burnham, Mary Wade’s director of recreation, from inside what she described as the “hot box” of her Victorian dress.