"Theres nothing like it in the world"
Boom Box Parade gets bigger, better

By MICHELLE FIRESTONE
Chronicle Staff Writer
July 6, 2010 


WILLIMANTIC--- Adorned in a blue knit cap covered in plastic fruit and red-and-white striped pants, 1983 Willimantic Romantic Cupid Claire Meikle was seen cruising down Main Street on her hot pink bicycle Sunday afternoon during Willimantic's 25th annual Boom Box Parade.

"Im not just doing it for myself, I'm doing it for people too," Meikle said.
Meikle, who was crowned Willimantic's "Romantic Willimantic Cupid" in 1983 for her work in the community, was one of many who marched in this year's Boom Box Parade. The parade is an annual Independence Day celebration during which participants tune boom boxes to local radio station WILI rather than having traditional marching bands.

In addition to the boom box concept, the parade is unique in the sense that a person doesn't have to be a member of a civic organization or group to march.

"Organization chaos is the key to the parade," said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

WILI personality and parade grand marshal Wayne Norman said the parade lasted one hour and 57 minutes, 11 minutes longer than last year's record time. The event has been featured in numerous local and national publications and attracts people from all over the state, country and world each year, he said.

"It's great to see how everyone comes out and lines the streets, no matter where they're from," said Beth Zambrano of the Center fro Community Engagement at Eastern.

Zambrano was among a group of Eastern students and faculty members who wore white sailor hats and rode in the school's float-- a giant white canoe. Like many other organizations, members of the group threw candy to children in the crowd.

"Hopefully we have enough candy to reach the end this year," said Jackie Bishop of Newington, a senior at Eastern who works at the Center for Community Engagement.

The parade featured a bevy of other local organizations, including the Willimantic Lions Club, the Congregational Church in Chaplin, the First Congregational Church of Mansfield, and the Frog Bridge Gymnastics.
Since this is an election year, many local politicians marched in the parade this year including Blumenthal, who has been attending the event for many years. Blumenthal said the concept behind the parade is interesting and sets it apart from others.

"It's unique and wonderful," Blumenthal said. "There's nothing like it in the world."

Ken Szama agrees with Blumenthal. Szama now lives in Boston, but came back to Willimantic to attend the parade for the first time in years.
"The wackier the better," Szama said.

People of all ages and backgrounds attended this year's parade, some who have been attending the parade for years and others attending for the first time.

"It's not summer unless you come to the Boom Box Parade," said 18 year-old Jim Mulkern, who was born and raised in Willimantic and attends the parade every year.

Miranda Sommer, 13, of Mansfield attended the parade for the first time with her parents and sister. Sommer doesn't attend many parades but found this one particularly enjoyable.

"I think this is a really good one because anyone can be in it," Sommer said.
Eastern Connecticut State University Elsa Nunez emphasized the community spirit behind the parade, which she attended for the fifth time Sunday.

"At first, I didn't know what to make of it, but now I love it" Nunez said. "There's a sense of community unity."
 
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