Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dorchester Day: Passage in Pageantry

The sun was shining on Dorchester Avenue, but the supersized papier mâché face of Prospero was tossing in the wind and tugging on a piece of wood attached to Shanaen Anderson. Preparing to ride in the Dorchester Day Parade in a flat-bed semi-trailer, she was among the DotArt students who would be mounting puppets to represent characters in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

In the DotArt creation that rolled down the avenue on Sunday afternoon, Shakespeare’s castaways and heirs to Dorchester’s seaborne founders were delivering an ecological message that hearkened back to the first refuge for endangered species, Noah’s ark. Cruising the waters painted along the side of the trailer was an endangered shark missing a fin. Trailing behind were carts bearing an elephant, a giraffe, and DotArt kids needing to get off their feet.

One of the DotArt parents, Ceronne Daly, was ready for the four-mile journey by her 7 year-old daughter, Alexis. She packed four bottles of water, along with carrots and grapes.

Walking in front of another flatbed, for DotOUT, Rosie and Anna had a pail for their Yorkshire terrier companion, Che. DotOUT members on the trailer had an easier time, playing the role of sun-bathers or even getting some shade from the umbrella with rainbow colors. True, they were another cast upon a shore, but the locations posted on signs were clearly in Dorchester: Tenean Beach, Savin Hill Beach, and Pope John Paul II Park.

Following DotOUT was First Baptist Church, just as Union soldiers from the Civil War marched in front of the Dorchester Lacrosse league. Vietnamese war veterans also marched in uniform, while other veterans showed their opposition to war in Iraq. And, as they passed through Fields Corner, one spectator yelled to the anti-war group, “Send ‘em home. Send ‘em all home.”

Elsewhere in the rolling chain were the double Dutch girls with SWIRLS (“Sisters Working for Real Life Solutions”), Estrellas Tropicales, and the St. Ann’s CYO girls’ basketball champs. Vietnamese formations won applause, while rotating shifts of lion dancers ran up to giggling bystanders. When Caribbean carnival dancers approached with their glitter and outspread peacock feathers, the less encumbered bystanders started moving to the music.

As always, there were elected officials and candidates—from the mayor and the governor, to several City Councilors, state legislators, and a Governor’s Councilor. Former City Councilor Albert “Dapper” O’Neil had passed away since the last parade, while the Vietnamese presence he once deplored has become a fixture in the parade and a multi-million dollar investment along the avenue. A year ago, O’Neil made his last appearance, going down the avenue in a 1977 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. But, insubstantial or not, the pageant had a place for him this year, too: a black 2007 Lincoln Town Car, with O’Neil’s name in green and orange, and one more sign: “The Legend Lives On.”

Also: view parade photo essay.