Column: Bloomington’s “reverse” July 4 parade a chance to turn back time to Titus Andronicus, cute babies

Late on Saturday morning, entrants in Bloomington’s Independence Day parade enjoyed sunny skies, a light breeze, low humidity, and temperatures in the upper 60s to low 70s.

For the whole day, the mercury reached a high of just 80 degrees.  That’s 6 degrees cooler than the average high temperature for July 3 over the last 125 years.

No one at Saturday’s parade had a memory that stretched back over a century.

But the way the event was organized this year was an aid to any reporter who wanted to tap into the decades that people could remember, by mingling among the entrants.

Bloomington’s parade this year eliminated the groups of strangers that crowd the traditional route along College and Kirkwood avenues. The goal was to reduce the chance for spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

That’s why the city of Bloomington collaborated with Indiana University to stage the parade in the parking lot north of the IU football stadium.

The entries remained stationary. Spectators drove or walked the loop-wise parade route that was laid out on the parking lot. The event was promoted as a “reverse” parade.

Lending credibility to the “reverse” parade approach was the entry called “Beanpole: The God of Pointless Behavior.” It’s not clear that the “reverse” parade could have counted as a legitimate parade without the participation of “Beanpole.”

Bloomington’s Independence Day parade has seen more than a quarter century of parade participation by “Beanpole.”

For the last few years, Katelin Vesely has been contributing her talent to the “Beanpole” effort. She spent some of Saturday as a live human “broadcast,” inside a TV set that’s missing its original screen.

Even though her “Beanpole” participation is relatively recent, she told The B Square her connection to its instigators goes back longer. She met Andy Cambridge and Kyle McIntosh when she was a teenager: “They were my directors in ‘Titus Andronicus’ when I was 13. I was stage manager over at Third Street Park with Monroe County Civic Theater.”

On Saturday morning, Vesely described that year’s production of “Titus” this way: “They did kind of a Mad Max skater-punk thing. It was the 90s, so very, very grungy.”

The H-T preview of MCCT’s 1997 “Titus” production quotes Cambridge: “It’s definitely a tragedy, but we’re not playing up the violence and bloodshed too much.”

The 1997 H-T piece was written by Kathleen Mills, who now has a connection to the parade that she didn’t have back then. She serves on Bloomington’s board of park commissioners. It’s the city’s parks department that programs the parade.

At its June 22 meeting, the board of park commissioners approved the parade’s partnership agreement—between the city of Bloomington, Downtown Bloomington, Inc., and Indiana University.

At that meeting, in response to a question asked during public commentary, parks staff confirmed that spectators could watch the “reverse” parade on foot or by bicycle.

On Saturday, The B Square made the rounds by foot, as did Ilana and Matt Stonebraker. A few months old, Frank Stonebraker cruised the course in a baby carriage, pushed by his dad.

Conversation with the Stonebrakers revealed: Frank had not prevailed in the Baby Contest, held  earlier this week at the Monroe County Fair. But they alerted The B Square to a past winner of the Baby Contest, who happened to be a parade entrant.

County councilor Trent Deckard was part of the Monroe County Democratic Party’s entry in the parade. He confirmed to The B Square that in 1978 he was judged to be Monroe County’s cutest baby.

A fact like that is natural fodder for Midwestern small talk.

Just before heading home, The B Square was chatting with Vanessa McLary, who was a part of the Kiwanis Club’s parade entry, and who was helping to promote the South Central Indiana Balloon Fest, which comes in the second week of September.

Did McLary know that Deckard was Monroe County’s cutest baby in 1978?

Her response: “No, I didn’t. But I know who was in 1992—it was my daughter!” Eighteen years later, Victoria McLary graduated from Bloomington South with a slew of honors, according to an H-T report that year.

That’s why Bloomington’s “reverse” Fourth of July parade this year will be recorded in The B Square’s archives with the tags “old cute babies” and “Titus Andronicus.”

Photos: July 3, 2021 Bloomington’s “reverse” parade

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