The May Day Parade in Minneapolis

by Clayton Yuetter

The May Day parade in Minneapolis is considered one of the premier events of the Twin Cities. Originating in 1975, it is put on by Minneapolis' very own In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater on the first Sunday in May. A ceremony and festival follows the parade.

A Parade in Scenes

The parade contains four sections that tell a story. In the Heart of the Beast uses captivating visual and musical aids to present a highly organized, themed event with big production value. The parade goes down Bloomington Avenue, at the end of which other people and groups are allowed to join to promote their causes, dressing up and walking down the street shouting. All together, the parade generally has about 2,000 participants.

History of the Parade

The first parade marched down the street in 1975. The purpose was for the In the Heart of the Beast theater company to give back to the community that supported it. It occurred several weeks after the Vietnam war ended and fed off the country's optimism. A few small performances were held at the park and several speeches were given. Now, the event has grown to be known far outside of the city of Minneapolis and includes brainstorming sessions in February that are open to the public.

The Ceremony

The story of each year's parade gets told in the form of a pageant to about 50,000 onlookers at Powderhorn Park after the parade. About 200 people participate in the event, from children to adults, including a live orchestra and giant puppets. The ceremony is also presented in American sign language. The parade starts at 1 p.m.. By 3 p.m. it has emptied into the park and the performers are ready to begin the ceremony.

The Festival

After the ceremony the fun continues in the form of a festival that lasts the rest of the day. Events include music, dancing, poetry, canoe rides, great food and more. It takes In the Heart of the Beast about $260,000 to put on the entire production, only half of which is covered by grants and fees. As a result, volunteers walk around the festivals with buckets for those interesting in donating to keep the event going.