Those of us along Renai could hear the parade, which was scheduled to begin at 3pm, long before we actually saw the first participants. It took the first group almost 20 minutes to reach us, which included the French-made “demon fish” float named Boing Boom Tshaak and its pirate-garbed crew. For the next hour and a half, my goal was to manage to juggle taking photographs of the drumming groups and other participants with either my camera or cellphone while not losing my grip on my score sheet and pen or losing my place at the curb.
All shapes and sizes
The photographs one sees of Mardi Gras marchers or Rio de Janiero’s samba schools always focus on the beautiful women in feathers and not much else, often sculpted to within a centimeter of their life through exercise or a cosmetic surgeon’s skill. The great thing about the Dream Parade is that the participants come in all shapes, sizes and ages. For many, especially the older men, it looks like walking the parade route is the most exercise they will have all year. Who says you can’t be 80 and wear a showgirl outfit? The “samba grannies” are proof that you are never too old to have fun. Most have enough energy to put the university students in the parade to shame. And anyone who walks the parade route in 10cm heels deserves some kind of prize.
There were several new floats this year, all very well done and the belly dancing group with a fire-breathing spider/dragon creature of the past few years traded up this year to a fire-breathing orange lizard/dragon. There was a team of students in white hospital gowns, zombie eyes and IV stands and another group of young women dressed up as boxed Barbie dolls accompanying a small float with a Barbie princess, who held a large pink lipstick instead of a scepter.
By 5:30pm my feet hurt and I was eagerly awaiting the final participants, but I had one more group to judge before I could turn in my score sheet: No. 65, the Ma-jia Junior High School from Pingtung County. They were worth the wait. Granted, the members were older then some of the mostly elementary-school students in other groups, but they were fired up.
Twenty-five minutes later the team members were still going strong as they came back down Renai toward the circle, singing, dancing and drumming as if it was still 3pm. Police officers were trying to hurry the group along so that they could clear Renai and Chungshan S roads and reopen them to traffic, but the kids would not be rushed. This was their moment — not in the sun, which had already set — but a time to relish being young, alive and dancing down the streets of Taipei. They may have been tired, but they obviously did not want the party to end.