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Oberlin's Big Parade


About ten years ago, a few Oberlin College students decided that our town needed its own special way to celebrate the coming of Spring.  They organized what has become an annual and much-loved event – the “Big Parade” along College Street through downtown Oberlin, usually on the first Saturday morning in May.  In the true, quirky Oberlin manner, the parade is far from being organized, with applications and approvals and assigned places on the route of march.  Rather, it is made up of anyone – and everyone – who wants to be a part of the celebration.  All you have to do is show up on the morning of the parade and get in line.



Some of the participants are what you’d expect to find in a parade, like the high school band.


More traditional “floats” are intermingled with other contraptions straight out of the wildly ingenious and predictably irreverent minds of college students and townspeople alike.  What is it indeed?


All ages participate – from pickups full of youngsters . . . . .


. . . . . to Kendal at Oberlin’s own Precision [?] Lawn Chair Drill Team.  This group traditionally ends the parade, both so they don’t have to march so far and so they can perform their routines without holding up anyone coming along behind.


The leader of the group, Harvey Culbert, gives his instructions through a hand-held amplifying bull horn – an essential part of the operation, since the hearing of some of the team members is not, shall we say, the best.


Unfortunately, as far as the “precision” aspect is concerned, the drill team has become such a favorite of the college students and townspeople that their shouts of approval often drown Harvey out completely, making his instructions totally incomprehensible and leaving the team members free to ad lib their way through the routines.


Especially popular with parade-goers are the group’s costumes, which seem to get more elaborate and less color-coordinated every year.  Did we mention “ingenious” and “irreverent”?


As a way to bring a community together – college students, townspeople, and residents of Kendal at Oberlin – nothing beats a “Big Parade”!

(Photographs by Paul Schwaegerle)