Puppeteers lead downtown Wilson parade

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Two-legged animals of all kinds joined to the beat of a single drum for a Saturday parade through downtown Wilson.

The display of unity came after a performance of the Paperhand Puppet Intervention at the Edna Boykin Cultural Center on Nash Street.

Saturday’s show, part of the Kaleidoscope Performance Series, was originally scheduled to take place at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, but organizers made a decision to shift the venue to avoid the possibility of a rain cancellation.

More than 100 people attended the performance, then joined together for the parade to the Imagination Station.

Many wore puppet heads of various birds and other colorful creatures.

I am a big fan of Paperhand Puppet Intervention,” said Rebecca Tighe of Wilson, who retired recently from the Wilson County Public Library after nearly 23 years. “I brought them to the library three times and I am just delighted to see them again. I go every year to the show. I would like to have them as often as possible.”

Tighe said the art troupe inspires.

“Creative activity really builds community,” Tighe said. “Doing what people haven’t done before and the generosity and spirit that this whole group exemplifies and hopefully a love of our planet and all the creatures on it.”

The N.C. Arts Council, Comfort Suites and Greenlight provide financial support for the Kaleidoscope Performance Series.

“We had to move it down to the Boykin Center because we were concerned about the potential rain. We are very thankful to the Arts Council of Wilson for letting us do that,” said Jeff Bell, executive director of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum. “I think we had a little more than 100 people and everybody participated in the parade, which was really cool to see.”

Tanja Gee of Wilson wore a bear head for the parade.

“I loved it. “ Gee said. “It was like watching Animal Planet.”

Michele Okoh wore a raven and danced the streets with it.

“I have been dying to see them for years now and I was really excited to hear they were in Wilson,” Okoh said. “This was a very interactive performance and the audience ate it up.”

Lisa Suzanne was one of three puppeteers in the troupe.

“This particular type of art form is rarely seen, so whenever we appear with our mask or a giant puppet, a lot of folks are just really amazed,” Suzanne said.

The Wilson audience was engaged with the show, Suzanne said.

“The audience was ready to just dive in and participate in all aspects of the show,” Suzanne said.

Donovan Zimmerman, co-founder and artistic director, told the audience that puppetry “allows us to have a glimpse into our humanness.”

During the show, various characters made their way off the stage and into the audience for lots of interaction.

“I really consider puppetry to be the people’s art form and I really like taking it right to people and that’s why we call it an intervention and do a lot of parades,” Zimmerman said. “It is sort of like everyday life gets momentarily put on hold while we take a time to celebrate, take a little time to smell the roses and do something creative as a community.”

The troupe’s annual summer show “We Are Here” runs each weekend from Aug. 2 through Sept. 29 at the Forest Theater in Chapel Hill. For more information, visit http://paperhand.org.

The next Kaleidoscope Performance Series event is 2-4 p.m. May 25 when the salsa/dance band Orquesta GarDel takes the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park stage.