Marching on: Parade the Circle makes its triumphant return after three years

A giant 82-foot-by-82-foot tent is currently being erected at East Bell Commons on East Boulevard and Bellflower Road in University Circle—a sign, as many faithful know, that Cleveland Museum of Art’s the popular Parade the Circle is coming soon.

“One of the markers of parade that people who know the parade might have noticed is that the giant parade tent has gone up,” says CMA director of community arts and parade administrator Stefanie Taub. “Once we move in [on Saturday, May 13] the tent becomes a giant art studio where professional artists and community members work side by side creating their ensembles for the next four weeks.”

After a three-year hiatus because of COVID, the 31st Parade the Circle returns on Saturday, June 10 at the north entrance of the Art Museum. Until 2020, the parade had never been cancelled.

We are back,” says Taub. “Our last parade was in 2019, and we are just thrilled to be back this year. Parade the Circle will look very much like parades in past years—it will be a combination of professional artists creating items for the parade, and then a combination of community members who are working with professional artists.”

The parade theme this year is “Transformation (Dragonfly/Libélula),” which was created by Parade the Circle lead artist Héctor Castellanos Lara.

Parade the Circle 2017Parade the Circle 2017“He's basically commenting on the pandemic and that we are all still striving to regain some kind of sense of normalcy and that we're looking for a moment,” says Taub. “We are looking for a moment of positive transformation.

Taub says the Libélula, which is Spanish for dragonfly, symbolizes our collective pandemic transformation “The dragonfly has been around since 300 million years or so and is a symbol of transformation just in its being,” she explains. “It also symbolizes strength and joy and creativity—all of the things that make the parade so amazing.”

Castellanos Lara is leading a core group of artists in the entire artistic production. “We have a production manager, a costume shop manager, and a mask room manager, and then probably about another 25 contractors who are coming in to create ensembles for the parade,” Taub says.

When the temporary art studio opens this weekend, it’s all-hands-on-deck to create the colorful and innovative puppets, masks, costumes, and other artistic creations that make the annual art display so vibrant. The tent is open every Saturday and Sunday until the parade to anyone with a workshop pass who wants to create something, take a workshop, or help the contractors and artists.

“Everybody builds their own things, but we have artists on staff who will assist in how to create a costume or how to build a float base, or how to actually create one of those giant puppets,” Taub explains. That workshop pass gives you unlimited time with the artists during the workshop hours, with some basic materials that we supply, and storage space for your giant items.”

The workshop is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Wednesday, June 7 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Passes are $50 per person and include the parade registration fee. Passes are $25 per additional participant in groups of four or more.

Parade the Circle 2017Parade the Circle 2017Taub stresses that people are also welcome to stop in the tent whenever it is open. “We often get people who ask if they can just sit down and help for a little while,” she says. “That's usually an entryway into getting into the parade—because often the people that need the help, the artists also need people in their groups. A lot of times conversations get started and then all of a sudden you are gearing up to be in that parade.”

The parade starts at 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 at the north entrance of the Art Museum. Taub urges guests to come early to visit University Circle Incorporated’s Circle Village on Wade Oval from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., where there will be live music, food vendors, and activity tents.

Food vendors include: Bailey's Boardwalk Fries; Beckham's B&M BBQ; Glacier Concessions; Kernels by Chrissie; Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio; Pop Culture CLE; and Rascal House Pizza.

Parade the Circle is free and open to the public. “Everything is free to spectators, except for food purchase, of course,” Taub says. “But all the activities, watching the parade, all of that, is free to spectators.”

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.