Signs of life: Artists, volunteers prepare for Parade the Circle

The 82-foot-by-82-foot white tent is up at East Bell Commons on East Boulevard and Bellflower Road in University Circle—the telltale sign that preparations are underway for the popular 32nd annual Parade the Circle on Saturday, June 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Lead artist Héctor Castellanos Lara and a core group of artists—some local, some from out of town—began work earlier this month, sketching plans for the masks, puppets, floats, and other intricate installations to amaze and amuse the tens of thousands of guests in attendance.

This is Castellanos Lara’s second year as lead artist—a role he accepts enthusiastically.

“When I got the call to again be part of this, of course, I just got very excited about it,” he says. “I've been working for parade for more than 23 years. Last year I was the lead artist for the first time and it was a big challenge, after three years with no activity because of COVID-19.”

Parade the Circle workshop tentParade the Circle workshop tentA day of peace and harmony

This year’s theme is “Visions of Harmony,” which Castellanos Lara says felt fitting with all of the conflict currently happening in the world. With such a large group of artists, he says he envisions the harmony that can occur when creative minds work together toward a common theme.

“The artists bring their ideas to the table, but [at first] they don't have a defined theme yet,” he explains. “Everybody contributes with something, and they're putting together something beautiful, and everybody will agree with that. All these artists have different skills and talents, but when they intersect, all these visions, that magic happens.”

That magic, says Castellanos Lara, is harmony and peace—is his exact vision for the event.

“We're always looking for positive effects,” he says. “Harmony is the stable inner peace, calmness, balance, and a feeling of being in sync with friends, family, partners, and neighbors. I guess that's the ideal dream for everyone in the world. So, let's get it in that world.”

Castellanos Lara says new artists and groups are invited to join the preparation each year, and this year Hildebrandt Artist Collective will help bring the vision alive in full color. Castellanos Lara says the group of artists working together on a single vision is exciting to watch.

“They work in different media, and in this case, there are several artists working in one ensemble,” explains Castellanos Lara. “They’re so excited. [Even though] they all think in a different way. When they establish that perfect communication, things happen.”

Parade the Circle workshop tentParade the Circle workshop tentCastellanos Lara says he is reluctant to reveal the exact project the Hildebrandt Collective artists are using, but there will be colorful birds on poles that will be manipulated as puppets.

Inlet Dance Theatre and other groups join Hildebrandt Collective, as well as families and children, in opening the parade. “That will be something very unique,” says Castellanos Lara, “and I know they’re going to do beautiful work.”

He says other participating groups include Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center, University School, and Abington Arms residents.

Castellanos Lara says the finished products will fit the harmony theme.

“We’re talking about dance, we're talking about singing, we're talking about movement—and, of course, the visuals of creating puppets that can be coordinated well, harmonized with colors, and they will be very pleasing for our senses,” he explains. “I think the word harmony is getting inside the heads of everybody this year.”

Rounding it out

Castellanos Lara and Samba da Cidade (Samba of the City), created and directed by Cleveland drummer and percussionist Dylan Moffitt, will close the parade this year with a Mayan culture theme and a 22-foot-long canoe that Castellanos Lara and his team are making.

“There will be seven Mayan gods inside,” he declares. “Real people, real Mayans from Guatemala who live in [southern] Ohio. I have to make costumes and crowns for them, and I’ll be navigating with them inside the canoe."

He says an acrobat will also be a part of the closing, dressed as a goddess. “She's going to be in this beautiful costume with a crown, and she's going to be dancing in front of the canoe, guiding us” he says. “Behind us or next to us, there will be six small canoes with kids inside [each] canoe. Right behind us, there will be 15 to 18 samba drummers. They're coming in a float because they have big drums—we have to make a float for them with wheels.”

Although he says he doesn’t want to reveal all the details, Castellanos Lara promises this year’s Parade the Circle has something new and exciting for everyone in attendance.

“We always try to bring new designs because every year is different," he says. “That's the beauty of having this event, creating new things for the people. And new for us, too, to help us develop new skills.”

Parade the Circle workshop tentParade the Circle workshop tentGet involved, get excited

The public is invited to contribute to the Visions of Harmony themes with a series of weekend Cleveland Museum of Art tent workshops. Participants can create costumes, masks, and giant puppets, with the assistance of staff artists. A one-time $50 fee allows participants to attend all of the workshops.

The first of nine public workshops in the tent began earlier this month. The second one is this Saturday, May 25, continuing on Saturdays and Sundays through June 2 and on Tuesday, June 4.

University Circle Inc.’s Circle Village is back again this year on Wade Oval, with hands-on activities for all ages, live music, and food beginning at 10 a.m.

The parade kicks off at 12 p.m. at the north entrance of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and activities will be offered by the Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland History Center, Cleveland Botanical Garden, and other community partners until 4 p.m.

Latin City Soul Band will perform from 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Food vendors include  Kernels by Chrissie, Glacial Concessions, Deal's Fresh Lemonade, Rascal House Pizza, Odd Dog Coffee, Pop Culture CLE, and Woah Dough.

Parade participation registration is $10 per adult, $5 per child. The workshop passes do not include parade registration fees.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.