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Monday, June 14, 2010

Black Rock and Roll

Black Rock and Roll
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Black Rock, CT – The theme was “Black Rock Rocks the Decades” and residents of the hip southwestern Bridgeport enclave sure turned up the volume.

Sunday June 13th marked Black Rock Day, a Community Council-coordinated annual opportunity for the area to celebrate itself. Features included a street parade, “Run for the Dock” 5K foot race, a Bed Race, all-you-can-eat breakfast hosted by the SS Norden Club and a festival at Ellsworth Field.

Approaching the noon hour on Fairfield Avenue, folks standing, sitting and squatting along the curbs near Ash Creek Saloon heard the first chirps and sirens of police motorcycles leading the parade procession. Little fingers went into little ears to muffle the sound as a trio of bikes rolled up. The choppers were followed by several officers on foot, then another trio on horseback, their sleek steeds clopping along on the pavement.

A banner toted by a string of children proclaimed “THE BLACK ROCK DAY PARADE”, providing an official i.d. for the march and the elements that trailed behind. Always a crowd pleaser, the fez-capped Shriners, doing figure eights in their little red, lawn mower engine-powered go-carts, thrilled kids of all ages.

Another group, all trimmed in green, came past from St. Ann’s, closely followed by softball champs supported by the Junior League of Connecticut. Wobbling up the road alongside them, on a bike adorned with American flags, came a pot-bellied man in a Yankees jersey tossing candy out of his bike basket. Kids on either side scrambled to grab up the offerings, which skidded across the roadway.

Shiny, candle apple red Engines #7 and #11 lumbered up behind, crisp American flags protruding from their front bumpers. The fire department and parade revelers were serenaded by a local band that jammed from a float merrily rolling along several car lengths back. All seemed like typical parade fare until -- zzzooooooommmm – Chicken Man came screaming along on a low-sitting go kart, did a number of loops and then continued on up the way. Yes, a beaked marauder in a bright yellow chicken suit was at the helm of this craft and on a mad mission in a blur of fuzz and feathers!

Bringing up the rear and trekking by Varsity Barber was yet another band, this one hailing from the Gaelic American Club of Fairfield. It was a good vibe to get moving along to and we all followed the tail of the parade into Black Rock’s residential area and to Ellsworth Park. Walking through the neighborhood was like traveling back in time to the Sixties, the time period most homeowners had chosen to illustrate and celebrate.

In one instance, there was a giant tie-dyed bedsheet lettered “Black Rock Day” with peace signs painted on it and bubbles flying around from behind and beneath it. The partiers there had headbands and flashed peace signs. Another home featured a sign, “LONG LIVE ROCK”, in which each letter of the phrase was painted onto a record album, and record album covers (from James Taylor and Peter, Paul and Mary) hung from the brim of a small tent.

Along the route, too, were the participants of the earlier Bed Race, like Kurt Sandwald, who had mimicked the S.S. Minnow from the popular “Gilligan’s Island” TV series. He played the Skipper, his “crew” wore sailor hats and there was even a pair of coconuts and a Hawaiian lei hanging from the bedposts. Further along, there was an actual living room futon that had been mounted to a wheeled platform. It had been moored curbside and its owner was now relaxing on it and enjoying a beer. It appeared he’d been there a while, too, as a few empties had collected along one side of the platform. “I may just sleep here tonight,” the big lad called out.

Christine Mangone, owner of a stately looking colonial directly on the route, was sitting out front with family and friends watching the goings on. “We love this neighborhood. It’s really social! And Black Rock Day is always fun!”

The parade’s endpoint was the aforementioned Ellsworth Field, where Bridgeport Police Officer Brian Pisanelli was posted with fellow officers. “Keeping everyone in check?” we asked. “It’s these guys I’ve got to worry about,” Pisanelli said, good-naturedly pointing at his co-workers.

The crowd was truly well-behaved and taking advantage of all the activities. At one end, there were pony rides, a moonbounce and a face painting station. The eastern quadrant featured a playground, hotdog stand and multiple food and beverage tents including one operated by Tavolini’s, the popular Italian restaurant on Fairfield Avenue. Another large tent provided tables, chairs and shelter for those that just wanted to take a load off. Facing all was a stage from which multiple bands took turns entertaining and in front of which festival-goers danced and shimmied. This included one extreme individual who had donned a crazy curly wig and attempted to do headstands. The Fife Band from the Fairfield Gaelic Club also did a number there, entertaining with a corps of bagpipes.

“I love ponies!” said Demi Santos, 5, from Milford, who took a loop on sand-colored “Tuffy” the horse. “This is my first pony ride!” said her friend Brooke, 7, also from Milford, who jumped up next. Their friend, Phillip Lauterborn, 10, from Fairfield, walked along beside them, cheering them on.

The Rock rocked and a grand day was had by all.