Since 1975, the Minneapolis Mayday Parade has marked the spiritual beginning of warmer, kinder months for the city. The staff and volunteers of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater have crafted an irreverent and profound pageant on the streets of South Minneapolis' Powderhorn neighborhood, equally influenced by Earth-day progressivism and Mardi Gras camp.
These days, Mayday attracts tens of thousands of attendees to watch brightly colored paper maché floats pass by on Bloomington Avenue and see massive puppets slowly dance on the shores of Powderhorn Lake. Here's what you have to check out during this year's parade and festival.
Heart of the Beast's parade tackles a different theme every year, using a procession of floats to raise awareness or make a statement on a wide range of social issues. According to the Heart of the Beast's website, This year's theme is "Radical Returnings: From the core of our hearts, we turn to each other," but don't expect to see any soapboxes. The Parade's organizers keep their messaging light, and the accompanying brass bands, dancers, stilt-walkers, bikers and rollerbladers all contribute to a joyful, family friendly experience.
Make sure to spot the Southside Battle Train, a truly impressive, "Mad Max"-esque four-car float that's completely bicycle powered, and assembled every year by a dedicated group of bike-punk volunteers.
The parade begins at 12 p.m. at Bloomington Ave and 25th Street and proceeds to 34th Street, before hanging a right and heading straight into Powderhorn Park.
Tree of Life Ceremony
Starting at roughly 3 p.m., after the parade runs its course, the Tree of Life Ceremony is Mayday's ritual welcoming of spring, directed and performed by Heart of the Beast staff. Every year, organizers craft a short play coinciding with the parade's theme, told by four giant puppets and a cast of dancers, masked performers and a motley house orchestra. At the end of the performance, a flotilla of performers paddles out to Powderhorn Lake's small island to "awaken the tree of life."
Following the Tree of Life ceremony, Powderhorn Park turns into a carnival atmosphere, with all manner of food vendors lining a path around the lake along with booths staffed by Community organizations and nonprofits. In addition to the Tree of Life performance, Mayday hosts four stages worth of music and entertainment, and the whole lineup can be viewed here. Highlights this year include the small-army sized Prairie Fire Lady Choir and inventive percussion quartet Savage Aural Hotbed.
The 42nd annual Mayday Parade and Festival will start at 12 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. More information is available at Heart of the Beast's website.