By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Stray folding and beach chairs lined the Horribles Parade route by early Wednesday morning, with residents not wanting to miss the rumbling trucks, dancing kids, floating mermaids and bands of marching “Horribles.”
Bagpipes and sirens filled the quiet and drowned out the excited chatter and neighborly greetings by 6 p.m., as the floats began to roll through downtown.
A group of seasoned mermaids waved from atop a float labeled “Marlee’s Mermaids.” The women, all participants in a water aerobics class at the YMCA, curled Styrofoam dumbbells, and called out to their grandchildren in the crowd.
“This is a brave move for us to bare our bodies,” said Jan Bell, who donned an octopus-embellished hat. “We’re of the magical age, the age of we can do whatever we want.”
The annual Parade of the Fishtown Horribles stretched for more than an hour from beginning to end, with the last in line making its way past the Fishermen’s Memorial shortly after 7 p.m., when the lead participants were heading up Railroad Avenue. As always, the parade wound from its starting point off Centennial Avenue, out to Western Avenue, then through the downtown via Rogers, Manuel Lewis, Main, Pleasant and Prospect streets before crossing out Railroad Avenue to Washington Street, down Centennial and back to the school.
Marlee Nelson, the “fearless leader” of the YMCA water aerobics class and leader aboard the float, sported a full and sparkling mermaid tail and a shell bra decorated her tan shirt, her blonde locks flowing behind her.
Women in floral one-piece suits, stuffed hats, feathered gear and sun hats, bustled about the float, passing around the water work-out equipment and adjusting red balloons.
The parade included groups, local civic leaders and marching families — while the Jeffrey Stockman family, some of the parade’s most active participants, served this year as grand marshals.
At Gloucester High School, Hometown ACE Hardware finished its own last-minute preparations, more on the float riders than on the float itself.
The crew used neon body spray paint to decorate each other for the store’s second appearance in the annual parade. Pete Gaston, a float rider who’s married to one of the store managers, said riding atop the float is not a favor, but a privilege.
“We’re taking this to a new level,” Gaston said, swinging a cardboard chainsaw. “They tried to keep me away but I showed up anyway.”
The temperature hung around a humid 80 degrees as the procession circled the downtown. Larry Fogarty and Misti Feliciano, dressed in costumes they had made the night before in order to represent the Glosta Joe’s coffee brand, were sizzling beneath heavy cloth and cardboard structures.
As the parade prepared to take off, Fogarty said he was excited to begin.
“In an hour, we’ll see how well that goes,” he joked. “We’ll be sucking on some coffee grounds or something.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.