The night before the unique Richmond festival that is his brainchild, Michael Beer was at Nicholl Park making his pitch to a pack of pre-teen skateboarders.
“What other parade would honor skateboarders alongside Gospel Choirs and low-rider car clubs?” asked Beer, the creator of Richmond’s “Silly Parade,” which will kick off for the third time on Saturday morning. “The point I try to get across is: People can do extraordinary things when it’s safe to be silly.”
The skateboarders will be a new addition to this year’s parade, Beer promises.
Since the first Silly Parade in 2010—Beer dubbed that one the “4th Annual”—the parade has steadily grown and cemented itself as a unique Richmond institution. At first glance, the spectacle that begins at Macdonald Avenue and 23rd Street seems gleefully incoherent: Chinese dragons,12-foot kaleidoscopes, a Senior Citizen Dry-Water Swim Team, stilt-walkers, and a medley of musicians, everyone awash in costume fabric and gratuitous paints and makeup.
But beneath the veneer of colorful revelry is a deeper unifying theme, Beer says. “This is an event that is inclusive to all of Richmond’s wonderful and diverse communities, and it brings people from wonderful and diverse communities from outside Richmond too,” Beer says. “I want to build bridges using humor as rebar.”
Beer, who worked as a kindergarten teacher for 18 years and says he is “about 47” years old, has been on tirelessly promoting his event across the Bay Area in recent weeks. Radio stations, interviews with local papers, trips to schools and skateparks—it’s all part of the job, he says.
“Yesterday I was walking down the street, and I saw a car stopped that was painted like a zebra,” Beer says, deadpan. “I knocked on the car door, and the woman inside said she read an article about the parade. So, it turns out she is a unicyclist, and I had a unicycle I could lend her. Anyway, she’ll be at this year’s parade. It’s full of serendipity!”
With that, Beer was off to continue last second outreach on Friday night. The 6th Annual Silly Parade (a name that belies the fact that this is its third year) is set to start at Macdonald Avenue and 23rd Street in 11 a.m. and run until 11:32 a.m. Participants will begin lining up at Nevin Avenue and 24th Street as early as 10:30 a.m.
“This is a parade in which all communities can participate,” Beer says. “See, everything begins with an idea in somebody’s imagination. This is about creating a new tradition: One Richmond.”