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Friday's Lucy Parade to be a blast from the past

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After reading this article, I am definitely more interested in Friday's parade than I was a few minutes ago:


By Jason Rodriguez (jrodriguez@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Jamestown's local weather gave its worst during the premiere of "Forever, Darling" in the late winter of 1956.


The planned parade route was lined with snow and slush and an unseasonable rain shower acted as the encore performance in the afternoon.


Fortunately, local residents mustered all the warmth they could bestow on their hometown heroine as she arrived with Desi and their show-biz entourage. The pulse of the community could be felt on their arrival date, beginning with local students in formation spelling out "Hi Lucy Desi," on the high school field as their helicopters came into view. Then the rest of the city joined in during the grand procession that hit the city strip.


Lucy's legions of local fans were never far from her convoy that wound its way to all the downtown highlights and eventually to the curb just outside the spotlighted Dipson's Palace Theater for the premiere.


That event 55 years ago set the bar for fan appreciation in Ball's hometown. Such history is not lost on the staff buzzing around The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Center in the final days of preparation for Lucy Fest 2011. Among them is Bill Stevenson, museum board member and master programmer of the Lucy 100th Birthday Parade, presented by Northwest Savings Bank.


During an interview taken in the final hectic week before L-Day, he said the new parade is going to tap into some of the tradition that made the premiere a magical event for Jamestown. But in terms of the numbers of tour buses and marching bands and "Lucy Ricardos" out in the street, the coming weekend is sure to fill the local history books on its own merits.




Fifty-five years ago, Stevenson was not yet school-aged and he waited at home for his father to pick him up for the downtown festival.


"I remember standing at the bus terminal on Fourth and Prendergast and there was a torrential rain," he said, adding that as the parade crossed the downtown, he vividly remembers Desi atop the fire truck with a donated fireman's coat as he waved back to the crowds.


Those memories have guided Stevenson in his rallying call for more than 1,000 individuals to take part in Friday's parade. Each recruit is playing a role in a grand spectacle that is part 1956-era reenactment, and part celebration of the heroine's centennial this year.


With an intention of preserving the utmost historical accuracy, he scouted the region for classic car enthusiasts, but only those with restored family cars and not rot rods.


Said Stevenson: "The antique cars will be headed to the premiere, so that spectators think the parade is once again headed to the Palace for the first showing of the film."


He said the Reg Lenna Civic Center is once again getting the honorary title of "The Palace" for the evening.


"On the (east) side of the marquee, it will say Forever, Darling Premiere, the way it did back in 1956," he said. "If someone takes a shot of it that night, it is going to look like it was back then."


While the main contingent of the parade will be gathered across the Third Street bride, at about 6:20 p.m. a low-flying helicopter will once again signal the arrival of Lucy and Desi in the area of the High School. And to make sure the pair can get assembled properly into the lineup before it launches, Stevenson said their red convertible, accompanied by a vintage police escort will be parked outside the school.


When the parade gets under way, veteran spectators will once again be able to see Desi atop a 1955 Jamestown Fire Department Truck while Lucy remains in her coach. Jan Present, elected "Miss Jamestown" for the 1956 parade, is returning while accompanied by her two granddaughters.




Performing the "I Love Lucy Theme," the Jamestown High School Band will precede Lucy in the final car. Stevenson said Desi will be situated between the sounds of Cuban jazz, performed by the Infinity performing Arts steel-drum band, and the banners of the Fire Department color guard.


"I tried to tie everything together ... the latin music is with Ricky, and the high school band is with Lucy," he said.


Other local performers include the Falconer high School Band and the 96 Highlanders Pipes and Drums, and they are joined by the guest appearance of other bands from across the continent.


"There are bands from California, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Ontario and Quebec - they are coming from a long ways." Stevenson said. "This town has never had 12 pieces of music in one parade. This should be an outstanding entertainment parade."


He cited his personal enthusiasm for drum corps, and last year he contacted Drum Corps International to see if there was a touring circuit that could stop over for the weekend. As a result, he was able to add eight other drum corps. last week, he announced that all 12 bands had a sponsor that was paying for their room and board.


Local benefactors include Everyday's Super True Value, Upstate Farms, Tastee Corners & Cafe, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, Lake Shore Paving, Jamestown Rotary, Jamestown's Rental Properties, Rudyz Pizza, Chautauqua Music, Windsong House of Cheese, the DJDC and the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce.


Stevenson said that given a tight schedule in the region, the drum corps performers jumped at the opportunity to add an additional venue in order to celebrate Lucy's 100th birthday.




Officially kicking off at 6:30 p.m., the parade is sandwiched between ongoing events during the Party on the Plaza outside City Hall. Spectators will want to follow the procession as it reaches Tracy Plaza, where Lucy and Desi are set to once again receive a key to the city from the mayor.


Stevenson, who has been an organizer of the annual downtown Christmas Parade, said this a unique opportunity to take part in a fair-weather celebration with thousands of out-of-town visitors.


He said he has no doubts that Lucy Fest will be an unprecedented success.


"Things have really come together good. When you look around you see the banners and flags. We have new lights in museum to showcase the history. A lot of work has been done this year.


The Party on the Plaza and the downtown parade are free. The complete roster of marching bands and other schedule details can be viewed at www.lucy-desi.com/center-for-comedy/festival-of-comedy.

© Copyright 2011 The Post-Journal. All rights reserved.



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