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Hillsborough Handmade Parade takes fanciful flight

A giant winged walker struts up Churton Street during the Hillsborough Handmade Parade on Sunday in Orange County. An estimated 500 people participated in the parade, many of them after working for months on their giant puppets and other costumes.
A giant winged walker struts up Churton Street during the Hillsborough Handmade Parade on Sunday in Orange County. An estimated 500 people participated in the parade, many of them after working for months on their giant puppets and other costumes. mschultz@newsobserver.com

Emily Anderson didn’t realize what a big deal the Hillsborough Handmade Parade has become when she agreed to march up Churton Street dressed like a big bird.

“I was an egret,” the Durham resident said Sunday afternoon.

“When I saw all the people (lined up to march), I thought no one’s going to be watching the parade because all of Hillsborough is in the parade,” she said. “And then more people came.”

The crowd lined the historic town’s main drag from the courthouse to the Burwell School Historic Site, where the giant birds, creepy crawlers and other marchers danced afterward to the beat of African drums and New Orleans jazz.

Tinka Jordy and Mark Donley, owners of Hillsborough‘s Eno Gallery, founded the parade in 2007 to bring the community together. The Hillsborough Arts Council holds it every two years, and it just gets bigger and bigger.

Jordy said at least 500 people marched in the parade this year. The onlookers, many toting children and dogs, rivaled the audience for the town’s annual holiday parade.

But the spirit behind the Handmade Parade is participatory. The Arts Council holds workshops beginning in July to teach people how to help others create their fanciful costumes.

On a crisp fall afternoon, a winged stilt walker smiled, the Hillsborough Garden Club’s beez buzzed, and a man wheeled a giant spider around like something out of “The Hobbit.”

Shaliah Haith of Magic Rhythms of Africa danced the lamban the length of the parade route. The dance from Guinea celebrates passages, she said, a special event like a birthday or other celebration that happens one time and then is over.

Not unlike the Hillsborough Handmade Parade, which after the marching and dancing Sunday, ended with Anderson’s egret and other mythical creatures being packed into the U-Haul.

Until the 2016 parade.

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