Richmond’s Seriously Silly Parade

The annual event affords the city some comic relief.

Richmond resident Michael Beer is serious about being silly — a word that, as he defines it, describes anything that might bring a smile to someone’s face. The origins of Beer’s jocular nature could have something to do with the eighteen years he spent teaching kindergarten, where he said he discovered the merits of injecting fun into everyday activities. It could also be owed to the summers he spends at a performing arts camp, polishing up his clowning skills. And if anything can be said of such credentials, it’s that they surely qualify Beer to orchestrate an event like the Richmond Silly Parade, an annual gathering at the intersection of Richmond’s 23rd Street and MacDonald Avenue at which veritable goofballs parade through the streets in various states of silliness.

Since its inception two years ago, the parade has attracted such participants as the Senior Citizen Dry-Water Swim Team, a group of octogenarians decked out in shower caps and floatation devices executing synchronized, landlocked backstrokes; a cluster of women with painted moustaches bestowing similar faux facial hair to parade watchers; and, perhaps highest on the hierarchy of hilarity, costumed dogs. Beer describes the mood of the family-friendly affair as a blend of the How Berkeley Can You Be Parade with less gratuitous nudity and the Solano Stroll with a bit more spontaneity. More than anything, though, Beer said his parade can best be described as “silly — very silly. I’m just trying to change the world, one smile at a time.”

All silliness aside, Beer started the city-sanctioned parade in an attempt to unify Richmond residents and to draw people from nearby cities to what he considers an often-overlooked East Bay town. He’d marched in the city’s annual Cinco de Mayo and Juneteenth parades, and noticed that each tended to draw mostly Latino or African-American participants, respectively. Beer wanted to establish a community-oriented event that brought out everyone at once. Drawing inspiration from the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade (touted as the “twisted sister” of the same city’s Rose Parade), he decided that a little levity might be the one thing to bring everyone together, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or neighborhood. “I thought that humor would be sort of a solvent to dissolve barriers,” he explained. “I was trying to build a bridge between different neighborhoods, using humor as rebar.”

This year’s parade, the “sixth-annual” (it’s actually the third, but Beer dubbed the inaugural parade the fourth-annual to get a “running start”), on Saturday, April 14, will feature the returning Senior Citizen Dry-Water Swim Team, the Richmond-based Umoja Gospel Choir, a handful of giant puppets, an electric car fashioned into the form of an elephant, and more. Beer said he’s also hoping for more canines in costume, a wind-chime orchestra, and perhaps a cavalcade of strollers rolling down the middle of the road. He’s open to all interpretations of silliness, and encourages willing participants to call him at 510-235-5519 or email RichmondSillyParade at gmail dot com to sign up or seek suggestions. 11 a.m.-11:32 a.m., followed by a taco truck-fueled after-party; free. Rain reschedules to Saturday, April 21.

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