Thursday, October 6, 2016


Lets go back to the sixties in Madison when the current mayor was a radical anti-war rebel rouser and Willy Street was synonymous with tie-dyed t-shirts and hallucinogens.
For the past thirty-nine years the hippies of yore and the counter culture wannabes of now have gathered together for the annual parade and festival that takes us all back to the halcyon days of bellbottoms, long hair and bongs. Old hippies and families whose parents are younger than the festival itself celebrate their beautiful weirdness and the eccentricity that makes Madison Madison and lets Willy Street be Willy Street.
The festival runs for two days in September with craft vendors, beer trucks, food for every taste and music to groove out on.
There's even a giant pumpkin judging contest guaranteed to stump all the stoners thinking they've probably swallowed Alice's "one pill that makes you bigger and one pill that makes you small"
The biggest attraction, at least for me, is the parade that takes place on Sunday morning. It's the going to church moment for us true Willy Street believers. The parade starts out with the two tuba tooting bubble mobile and the ringmaster Bubble Man in his kaleidoscopic apparel.
He stands on the back of the tricked out convertible tossing massive bubbles along the parade route. If this doesn't get you in the mood I doubt anything will.
Following behind on the tips of slender wooden pegs were the stilt ladies. Like a harem of nymphs and butterflies they precariously glided along the street we call Willy.
Once the parade started there was never a moment when music wasn't dictating the cadence of the march. Music drummed over us onlookers with a pounding bass beat. It started out with the crazy misfit musicians dressed in traditional Badger red and white, although their outfits were as non-traditional as their music and their performance.
As the brassy sounds of the misfits were fading to a memory another percussive sound began its overlap on the auditory aspect of the parade. A brigade of freaky drummers joined the airways of Madison's east side. Wigged out and cross-dressing they pounded the pavement with gusto and heels.
Bringing up the end of the parade was a youth group drum corps once again pounding out an ending to the parade but a beginning to the rest of the day's musical entertainment.
The parade wouldn't be a Willy Street sensation if it weren't for its characters and there were many. They marched in picturesque groups or as stunning individuals and all tapping in to their inner sixties.
From the raging grannies standing up for all things political
to the young stay-at-home moms cranking out cookies and keeping the neighborhood vital
to young kids putting their own spin on what the parade will look like in the future
to a whole new generation of little lions
even the world of anthropomorphism had its representation in Mr. Frog straight out of a children's picture book.
Beauty had its queens and kings with a costume parade that was nothing short of inspirational. Who wouldn't fall in love with this iconic beauty?
Or the sheer joy of a transformed unicorn twirling her hoops to her own inner drummer
And she wasn't the only one shuffling to an inner drummer. This dude definitely sported a look that possibly only he understood, although I hope I can someday hear that same drummer and add a plastic tray to my head thinking it the height of elegance and ingenuity.
So hop on the Willy Street saloon bike and grab a local craft beer with a couple of dinosaurs. This flash back to a time when acid Kool-Aid flowed like water and beads and dreads were oh so hip made me forget my own biological clock and set me back to a time when I could still touch my toes and stay awake after 9pm.
Janis Joplin, Newport Folk Festival, 1968
Elliott Landy, photographer
Represented by Monroe Gallery, Santa Fe

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