A July 4 alien invasion? Yes – in Takoma Park

Independence Day parade to bring out the usual and unusual

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Click here to enlarge this photo
David S. Spence⁄The Gazette
In preparation for Takoma Park’s annual Independence Day parade, Takoma Park residents (from left) Eli Cohen, 5, Emma Cohen, 7, and Rachel Kleiner, 6, don alien costumes featuring laser squirt guns and silver hats with ‘‘bouncy things” for the ‘‘Aliens in Search of Intelligent Design” float that will appear in the parade.

Aliens will invade Takoma Park on July 4, bringing a delegation of at least 15 down Maple Avenue as they reveal their true natures to the community.

They are not your typical Martians — they are aliens with a purpose. They call themselves ‘‘Aliens in Search of Intelligent Design,” and dressed in metallic silver, saffron and sky blue, along with hats with bouncy things (their formal attire), they plan to take their search, and perhaps a message, to parade-goers during Takoma Park’s annual Independence Day celebration.

‘‘We’re honored to be allowed to bring our spacecraft to come to the founding members celebration,” said the aliens’ ‘‘fearless leader,” Dan Robinson, a Takoma Park resident.

Takoma Park has an unusual Independence Day parade history. While it features the traditional patriotic lineup, with politicians and war veterans, it also features some irreverent acts, with messages sometimes targeting the federal government. Last year, a group had humorous signs about President Bush, and anti-war displays are not unheard of.

‘‘People can really do whatever they want,” said Belle Ziegler, a member of the Independence Day Committee Inc., the group that plans the parade.

The key is ‘‘independence,” she said. Groups come up with wild ideas each year. One lawnmower group paraded in protest of gas-powered lawnmowers by pushing the old-fashioned operator-propelled mowers down the street. And a ‘‘drill” group featured members who literally held hand drills and cranked them as they walked.

‘‘I think the diversity that we have adds a lot to it,” Ziegler said. ‘‘It’s not something where everything is structured.”

The flexibility of the planning committee allows the residents of what Ziegler calls a ‘‘unique” neighborhood to assert their individuality.

Because of this flexibility, the alien group has entered the parade and float contest for the past three years. The aliens consist of Robinson and his neighbors, along with a local band, the Takoma Zone.

In the last two years, the group has entered floats based on current events issues, and this year’s ‘‘Aliens in Search of Intelligent Design,” reflects current debate about the alternative theory to evolution.

Last year, the group members had ‘‘Assail on Rockville,” in which they had a Viking float, and the previous year, ‘‘The Weapon of Mass Consumption,” which had a cardboard Humvee.

Robinson declined to describe this year’s float, because of the ‘‘confidential nature” of the activities, and because he wants to win the float contest.

‘‘I’ll just say it’s stunning and silver and it’s special,” he said. ‘‘They call it a float, [and] it floats in space, of course.”

The group has won first place for the float in the past two years, and hope to do so again.

Their float, along with many others, will be at the 117th annual Takoma Park Fourth of July parade and celebrations. The festivities of the day will have many of the same time-honored traditions, but will also have some new flavor.

New this year is a performance by the Palapa Indonesian dance and music group.

‘‘I’m hoping that it will bring in a broader, global appeal,” said Mary Anne Miles, a member of the planning committee for the festivities.

The theme for this year is ‘‘Volunteers: Keeping Our Community Strong”.

‘‘So many things in the community could not be done without volunteers,” Ziegler said. ‘‘We felt they needed some recognition.”

Leading the parade will be Mayor Kathy Porter and Grand Marshal Eric Bond, along with other state, county and municipal officials.

The rest of the parade will consist of floats and many members of the community. Also involved are Boy Scouts; dancers; neighborhood, civic and veterans groups; horses; and the fire department.

July 4 activities
The Takoma Park Independence Day parade begins 10 a.m. at Carroll and Ethan Allen avenues, follows Carroll Avenue to Old Town Takoma Park and returns via Maple Avenue.
The Independence Day program and fireworks begins 7:30 p.m. at Takoma Park Middle School, 7611 Piney Branch Road, with concerts and concludes with a 9:30 p.m. fireworks presentation. For more information, visit www.takomapark4th.org.
Performances will include many returning favorites, such as the MacMillan of Montgomery Pipe Band, dc Motors, Mecca Temple No. 10 Drum and Bugle Corps, the Morning Few, D.C. Pan Jammers, Image Band, and the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Band.

The organizers have high hopes for this year’s celebrations.

‘‘I think it’s going to be one of our best,” said Terry Seamans, the Ward 4 Takoma Park City Council member and a member of the planning committee. ‘‘The organizing is going very well and the community has been very generous with their donations.”

‘‘It’s just the best day in Takoma Park,” said Claire DeLabar, planning committee member. ‘‘It’s just the day when the whole town comes out.”

‘‘I just hope we have a good crowd and it isn’t 100 degrees,” Ziegler said.