by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 4 February 2016
On Sunday, February 7th, at 1p, the third-annual Petit Troll Parade takes to the street. Come take in this tiny slice of Mardi Gras knowing that, unlike other parades (e.g. the Fremont Arts Council (FAC) Solstice Parade,) this one won’t require, hours in advance, staking out the perfect viewing spot, or closing down streets at the Center of the Universe.
Instead, stroll, shop and socialize this weekend at the Fremont Sunday Market – and expect to see (or take part) in this miniature parade, with its costumed participants, halo of decorated umbrellas, and live music provided by the Mighty Tiny Band.
“Imagine putting on a mini-Mardi Gras parade; a doll-sized parade. People just break out in smiles and laughter to see us go by,” observed Norma Baum, a FAC volunteer since 1993, about Petit Troll, “You get to share all the fun!”
An ‘Official’ FAC Endeavor
Founded by FAC member Jen Bay, Petit Troll started two years ago as a small-scale Mardi Gras celebration that is easy to build, and activate, while providing great joy far outsized to its diminutive size. Bay had gotten the idea from a guerrilla group in New Orleans that scaled down Mardi Gras floats for a parade they call ‘tit Rəx.
“You go home with your smile muscles hurting,” Baum reported. She took part in the first Petit Troll in 2014, for which she built three clown-centric floats, and pulled them down the street with approximately a dozen other participants, through the rain. This year, she’s helped facilitate the public workshops for building Petit Troll 2016.
“I think it’s going to be big,” Baum said, speaking to the Petit Troll tradition, and not the scale of the short and sweet parade. “It’s one of the most accessible events. Anyone can build it,” she remarked, “It doesn’t take that long. The walk isn’t that long. It takes a couple of hours. It makes you say, ‘I could do that!’ It’s so manageable!”
Last fall, Bay offered Petit Troll to the FAC, and its members welcomed the chance to add this low-cost, high-return performance arts event to its annual calendar. Petit Troll fits well within the mission of the FAC. “For me, it’s everything,” Baum explained – it’s inexpensive, accessible and, “so inclusive,” she said, “Audience participation is what we want.” Last year, costume pieces and this year a collection of decked out umbrellas (as the Second Line, and because, well, it can rain) can be handed out to transform audience members into Petit Troll participants.
Also, Petit Troll has four rules that are nearly identical to those of the Solstice Parade:
- No printed words or logos
- No live animals (except guide animals)
- No motorized/remote controlled floats
- No weapons or fire
And one more, to keep floats in proper scale:
- Floats should be smaller(ish) than a case of wine (as in a dozen bottles, not a box of wine)
Most significantly, producing Petit Troll means the FAC can open its workshop for more public parade build parties, that allow everyone (all ages, abilities and artistic inclinations,) to decorate and create. As Bay has written, “Like other FAC events, the build is where the juice is.” And nearly daily, starting January 29th at the FAC Powerhouse, volunteers have come to build floats, assemble costumes, or trick out an umbrella, provided with (and providing) supplies and snacks.
A Small & Sweet Build
Petit Troll floats generally start with a small box, adding wheels, or using an already moveable base (a Barbie car, Tonka truck, etc.) (Wider is better, the official-ish guidelines state, as smaller toys tend to tip over when pulled through the street.)
From there, float builders decorate with gee-gaws, toys, jewels, things that jingle, and colorful fancy bits. Some floats have themes – Bay has created a series of floats with using Fremont Troll Chia Pets – while others merely celebrate through color and frou-frou. Volunteers create these miniature mobile works of art for this year’s parade and, unlike with full-scale floats, the creators or the FAC can store them to use again.
As for Baum, when asked if she minds her previous floats being commandeered by others, who might get credit for her hard work, she answered emphatically, “Not at all! Not at all! I’d give this all away. What makes me excited about being in the FAC is seeing others being excited by it all.”
“You can’t own art,” Baum observed, “You have to be generous. Art, well, it’s supposed to be a social glue. It’s what makes everything come together.”
‘Spreading The Seeds’
The re-use of Petit Troll floats is another of the blessings of this event. “I like spreading the seeds,” Baum explained. For the 2012 Solstice Parade, Baum led a troupe of clowns all wearing colorful, iconic, cone-shaped hats – made in workshops she hosted. “Like the clown hats,” she pointed out, “they can show up at different things.” Petit Troll floats (and Baum’s clown hats,) could be pressed to service by volunteers cheering up Senior Centers, promoting the Solstice Parade to donors, or decorating them with lights for use in the annual FAC Luminata. After all, Baum observed, “the ‘tit Rəx spread the seeds here!”
The Petit Troll could also help build Solstice Parade floats, by giving artists a place to get creative and build prototype floats. Still, “we don’t know if it needs to get huge,” Baum said about ambitions for Petit Troll, “you lose the familiarity, the intimacy.”
Come ‘Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler’!
“This is one of the most fun things I’ve done in a long time,” Baum observed about Petit Troll, “it’s quirky. The music [provided by Mighty Tiny Band] just makes you dance.”
Come along and help out with Petit Troll during the final public workshops on February 4th & 5th from 6p – 10p, and February 6th from 1p – 5p, or just show up on Sunday, February 7th, to stroll the Sunday Market and share in the celebration as the Petit Troll processes through! With throws for the crowds, and a spirit of ‘laissez les bons temps rouler,’ don’t you want to have a place in this Fremont Mardi Gras?
- FAC Solstice Parade: A Photo Display
- by Michelle Bates, May 28, 2012
- Make Errands Fun With The Fremont Sunday Market
- -by Kirby Lindsay Laney, August 4, 2015
- How To Build A Solstice Parade
- by Kirby Lindsay, May 16, 2011
©2016 Kirby Laney. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.