By Sherry Lucas
Clinton’s beloved Caterpillar Parade returns in all its green glory and most of its associated festivities this spring, on Saturday, April 10, in Olde Towne.
A few minor adjustments will amp up the safety, as communities continue to wrestle with the pandemic, but all the smiles, silly fun and heartwarming connection this unique signature event offers townsfolk stay intact.
The event will be the highlight of the outdoor Spring into Green Market, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 10. Dozens of craft vendors will converge on Olde Towne’s brick streets to tempt shoppers with handcrafted and handmade treats and wares that run the gamut from candles, soaps and jewelry to artwork, woodwork and baked goods.
As of late March, about fifty vendors were registered, with more expected as the event nears. The average count pre-pandemic for the spring market was eighty to ninety vendors, Main Street Clinton Director Tara Lytal says, noting it’s still uncertain whether the count will reach that level.
“I sort of anticipate it will be down just a little bit, but there’s a lot of pent-up frustration … for people wanting to get out and do things, and that’s probably the same for vendors.”
Spring fever will likely spur attendees, too, to a market that, in typical years, can see 3,500 to 4,000 people stroll through, spread over the course of the shopping day.
Masks and social distancing are recommended, and booths will be spaced out (as they were at the November market), “just to give people a little more breathing room,” Lytal says. Hand sanitizing stations will be onsite.
“People are going to sports events, people are going to the soccer fields, people are ready to do activities again as safely as possible,” Lytal says. “This provides an outdoor shopping experience that is as safe as we can provide.”
The crowning of the 2021 Caterpillar Queen will take place before the parade, at 9:30 a.m. at Lions Club Park, so onlookers will have plenty of space to spread out and socially distance. The parade follows at 10 a.m., with Grand Marshall George Ewing and the newly-crowned Caterpillar Queen leading the 13th annual parade through Olde Towne. The Caterpillar Queen will wave to admirers from her royal ride, Turner the Train. The route will be slightly different this year, to mitigate clustering and crowding.
The honor of Caterpillar Queen is bestowed upon a mature woman who has made significant contributions to Olde Towne.
Young girls are invited to flock to her Butterfly Court, marching alongside the Caterpillar Queen in the parade, and wearing wings and sashes. “Butterflies” should wear their best butterfly costume, and the first twenty girls to sign up can get free butterfly wings. Register for the Butterfly Court at mainstreetclintonms.com/butterflycourt.
Children are welcome to ride in wagons or strollers or on bikes in the Caterpillar Parade, which also features golf carts decorated by local businesses, organizations, families and clubs. Storefronts, homes, parade spectators and even pets can worm in on the action, too, sporting some kind of caterpillar theme to join the fun. Visit mainstreetclinton.com/golfcartfloat to register a golf cart for the parade.
“In homogenous suburbanviille, we’re always trying to differentiate ourselves. The Caterpillar Parade has been that identifying thing for us,” Lytal says. The idea took flight first as a way to mark Earth Day and welcome spring. Toni Wall, then-owner of Pentimento Books and on the promotions committee, came up with the idea and, a few years later, was crowned its first Caterpillar Queen.
It started small, but quickly grew into a staple event of the year. Toddlers who rode along early on are now teenagers old enough to volunteer.
The event’s charm spreads as wide as the smiles on kids’ faces.
“What I love is the toddlers on their tricycles or bicycles and they still have the training wheels, and they are pedaling with everything in their heart!” Lytal says. “You know that look, and that is so much fun!”
Chrysalis giveaways at the end of the Spring into Green Market — one per family — give Clintonians the chance to watch their own butterfly hatch and emerge, and then get set free in yet another celebration of spring.