As a town known for its ex-hippie, anti-war, vegetarian, earth-friendly and free-floating populace, Takoma Park made its Independence Day celebration parade yesterday something of a time warp.
"There is a 1960s thing going on here," said Mike Bodin, 41, of Silver Spring, referring to all of the parade groups with political points to make. "But that's Takoma Park. . . . It's a politically vibrant place."
Despite its quirkiness, Takoma Park's parade, now more than 100 years old, also has its share of standard community fare: shiny firetrucks, pompom girls, politicians waving from vintage cars and eager children scrambling for candy tossed by clowns.
About 6,000 spectators poured through the hilly neighborhood streets, folding chairs and coolers under their arms, and took shelter under the spreading trees lining the parade route to stay cool.
Jeff and Joan Golding and their three daughters watched the passing show. "I like everything," said Madelyn Golding, 2.
"I like that girl who flipped over in the air," said Allura Rayford, 5, of the District, as she admired an acrobatic group. "She went up almost to the street light . . . and the boys catched her."
The parade concluded the area's weekend of Fourth of July hoopla. Organizers said they decided to hold the parade yesterday because Independence Day fell on a Sunday, when lots of residents attend church.
Many who live within the town's borders associate their activist-rich pocket of the world directly with the protest era, calling their community the "Berkeley of the East."
And just to prove the point, the curbside crowd's clear favorite among the anti-war, environmentalist and animal rights participants was the Washington Action Group, led by Nadine Block, 37, in her throwback duds.
Slinking down Carroll Avenue in calf-hugging boots and a dress trimmed with yard-long white fringe, Block led snappy chants about the right to "bear arms." Behind her marched a T-shirted group carrying mannequin arms painted red to look bloody.
"But there is no right to bear legs, no legs," explained Peter Adams, 47, a Washington Action Group member.
Close behind came the Citizens Against Lawn Mower Madness. Moving at a good clip, the dozen or so protesters snaked down the street pushing their reel lawn mowers and chanting, "No gas to mow the grass." The group, which has been in the parade for years, advocates the use of push mowers to cut air pollution and grass.
The recently departed Roscoe--a rooster who ranged through the town for years and became its de facto mascot until he was hit by a car while crossing Carroll Avenue this year--was also the subject of marching satire.
There's been talk about commemorating Roscoe with a statue or plaque. Poking fun at a fund-raising campaign for the memorial, a group calling itself the Sherman Avenue Precision Grill Team did its drills in brown feathers and beaks.
"We want billions for the bird," said Jim Williams, 51, one of the marching grillers. "We want Roscoe on Mount Rushmore!"
This year, Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter, Police Chief Tom Anderson and University Maryland basketball star Steve Francis led the parade. Francis grew up in Takoma Park and recently was drafted by an NBA team. Proving that sports can still turn on a crowd, sometimes even more than slogans can, Francis was kept busy, signing autographs for dozens of children.
CAPTION: Annie Cotton, who has been a crossing guard in Takoma Park for 14 years, gets a cooling spray of water from Takoma Park resident Carolyn Bassing.
CAPTION: Taylor Williamson, 6, left, watches the parade with British friend Francesca Madden, 3, and Francesca's mother, Sarah Madden.
CAPTION: Amber Dahabura, 6, of Takoma Park, listens while Molly Gavin, 4, of Burtonsville, covers her ears as bagpipers march by in Takoma Park's Independence Day Parade. The nontraditional plastic bags on the pipers' belts carried water bottles.