Parade ‘pep-squad’ hits Avenue of Roses Parade on Saturday

See why this group of otherwise “normal” folks is plotting to invade Portland area parades this year. Show up April 28, Saturday morning, and see them “at work” — having fun — along SE 82nd Avenue ‚Ķ

One of the “PEParazzi” instigators, and pep-squad workshop leader, entertainer Marlene Azar, shows how a simple hand puppet can effectively communicate and engage strangers along a parade route.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
This spring and summer, more Portland area neighborhoods and business districts are hosting parades than ever.

With the aim of engaging bystanders in these parades, a Brentwood-Darlington resident, and president of the Foster Area Business Association, Nancy Chapin, says the idea struck her not long ago: Create a neighborhood parade cheer-leading squad.

“Parades build a sense of community because they bring people together,” Chapin tells us.

Chapin enlisted the aid of an individual involved in entertainment for 18 years, Marlene Azar (a/k/a “Eartha the Ecological Clown”).

“Our idea is to create a group of ‘parade cheerleaders’,” Azar tells us. “Our goal is to help make our business district and neighborhood parades more fun.”

Creates a new category: Parade liaison
Azar says individuals and groups march or ride in parades for the fun of it. Spectators line the streets, because they enjoy seeing the parade.

“But, we’re creating a third group of folks ‚Äì I think it’s an entirely new concept ‚Äì people who help connect the viewers with the participants. We’re working with individuals who have joined our group to help them bring out their creative ideas. Each member of our squad has their own special way of connecting with people.”

Chapin interjects, “This is a new concept. It could grow nationwide! But, first, we’re starting with East Portland events.”

Although a professional clown, instructor Marlene Azar says she’s trying to help people become parade liaisons ‚Äì not clowns.

Although Azar communicates her message of “being good to the planet Earth” through clowning, she says, “This isn’t a clown school. We are helping our people create unique ways for them to become liaisons, connecting observers with parade participants.”

Taa Daa! Introducing the PEParazzi, at the 82nd Ave. Parade
Chapin says the group has chosen a new name ‚Äì they’re now officially called the PEParazzi. The novel idea behind this group has even garnered two official sponsors, Pacific Power and ShedRain.

Their first outing will be along the route of the first annual 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade” on Saturday, April 28th that starts at 9:00 a.m.

The Avenue of Roses Parade starts at Eastport Plaza, 4000 SE 82nd Avenue.  The parade will travel north along 82nd Avenue, then west on SE Yamhill, disbanding at SE 78th Avenue.

Got PEP? Join them!
“The parade season is just starting,” says Chapin. “If you love parades, but don’t necessarily want to march in them, come join us!”

Interested in joining the PEParazzi team? Come to the next workshop on Sunday, May 6 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Once again, Azar will be on hand to help participants better develop techniques for creating humorous connections between spectators and participants, as well as teaching costuming and light make-up ideas.

To participate, or for more information, contact Nancy Chapin at (503) 313-1665.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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