After days of working with Westville parents and children in her giant puppet-making workshop, artist Muffy Pendergast found time to create her own papier-mâché costume featuring a head of ornamental kale, nestled in the mouth of a giant cornucopia.
Pendergast’s creation was a tribute to Westville’s CitySeed farmers market, and one of dozens of puppets and costumes to march in Westville’s annual Giant Puppet (and People Making Mayhem) Parade, an event she has guided from its humble beginnings four years ago.
This year’s parade, presented by Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (WVRA) and sponsors, was held Sunday under a bright autumn sky and drew around 200 marchers of all ages. According to Pendergast, the puppet-building workshops, which were held in a space donated by the D’Andrea family and Pops II LLC, build much more than puppets. “We are creating together, making a mess together, cleaning up together and building a stronger community,” she said. “The workshops reel in new participants every year, and the return families extend their experience; it just grows and grows and grows.”
One of the more creative puppets this year was a three-part homage to Delaney’s Restaurant & Tap Room, which suffered a catastrophic fire only months ago, leaving an empty, sandy lot in its wake. The design, created by Elise Hebel, a preschool teacher and puppeteer, featured happier days in the life of the landmark restaurant, with images of the building and families of tenants crowded in the upper windows.
Pendergast said she created a category of puppets to reflect local themes and also had group projects for those who did not have time to create individual projects. Mistina Hanscomb of WVRA and preschool teacher Jaime Kane (pictured) were also part of the paste-and-paper posse helping construct characters for the parade.
Among the giant puppets was the iconic West Rock puppet that has emerged as a symbol of the annual event.
Another icon, still celebrating Independence Day, lifted her torch proudly.
Some sported more traditional costume themes.
Others, like the giant pine cone, struck a runway pose displaying the latest in botanical couture.
Kiddie costumes more than held their own.
A former president strolled casually among marchers. It appeared he may have stopped to make a purchase at one of Westville’s fine boutiques.
This year, the parade route was extended to take in some of the Arts in the Park activities sponsored by Site Projects and Channel One, at the refurbished Coogan Pavilion. Marchers were able to see graffiti legends mix it up with today’s generation of local writers and bombers in a spray paint marathon that covered skate park topography and parts of the pavilion walls.
Marching over the footbridge and past tennis courts, the Giant Puppet Parade made its way to the farmers’ market for a festive mash-up of music, dance, classic fall games including an apple-eating contest with apples donated by Colton Corner Farms, and hotly contested sack races, whose winners won City Seed Market tokens.
With the convergence of the Giant Puppet Parade, farmers market, and Art in the Park festival, Westville enjoyed a community trifecta of good will, fun, and creativity, driven by smiles and the legions of volunteers that make it all possible.