December 27, 2006-January 3, 2007

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DIY Parade

Photograph by Wes Modes
No clowns were harmed during the making of this collage: The DIY Last Night celebration, as envisioned by one of its 'unorganizers'

About Last Night

Santa Cruz gets ready for another DIY New Year's Eve

By Laura Mattingly

Have you ever jaywalked? Have you ever filed for a permit to jaywalk? Have you ever jaywalked with a friend? Have you ever jaywalked with a few hundred friends? Think of New Year's Eve's DIY (Do It Yourself) Last Night Parade as a giant jaywalking extravaganza. Or a mobilized neighborhood block-party. Or on opportunity for a bunch of people to walk down the street as they damn well please, without using the crosswalk, and without asking anyone's permission. And chances are they'll do it in costume.

Like last year, the plan is for parade participants to meet at sunset, on Dec. 31, near the parking lot of Santa Cruz's Saturn Café. Last year's parade routed itself along Pacific Avenue, but with this wily DIY attitude, it's anyone's guess what'll happen this year.

Though some things never change. Lizz Hodgin, a Santa Cruz resident of 29 years who runs Music Together, an early childhood music program, has participated in Santa Cruz New Year's events for the last six years, and says the DIY Last Night Parade sports a far different style than the prior, more "official," First Night celebration.

"It has a very different feeling. For me being in it [the DIY Parade] was much more exciting. Because it's not as predictable, and the energy of the participants is just incredible. ... It felt so much more personable, it felt so much more creative, and I was really excited to be a part of it," says Hodgin. "I've really enjoyed First Night. And I hope First Night comes back, but in the meantime, we need a parade."

Despite explicit information and manifestos posted on a website by the parade's DIY "un-organizers," a loose group acting as communicators rather than leaders, city officials still seem baffled by the no-need-for-a-permit concept.

City Councilmember Mike Rotkin's concern lies with order and safety. He deems the mass pedestrian/traffic interaction as potentially dangerous. He expresses frustration that the DIY Parade disorganizers would not initiate a meeting with the SCPD to make the event "safe and rational."

"I'm glad somebody's doing the event. I encourage those kinds of events, and well, let me give you an exact quote here, I wish they were not being so childish about not being willing to work with the police to make sure everyone's safe."

But the DIY manifesto emphasizes the goal of safety as well, and frames it as a matter of individual and collective responsibility, rather than as solely the responsibility of the Police Department.

Grant Wilson, social worker in the mental health system, and one of the founders of the Santa Cruz Art & Revolution street performance group, feels that because the parade was not planned by an organization, and because it has no funding, there's no need to approve the parade through official channels.

"It seems to me that if it's a collective [event created] by individuals, I don't feel like it has to go through the permit process," says Wilson. "If I choose to walk down the street, I don't need a permit to walk down the street. If I'm in costume, I don't need a permit to be in costume."

Santa Cruz Art & Revolution anticipates bringing giant puppets to the parade, and offers workshops to volunteers from the public interested in learning to be puppeteers.

Since Santa Cruz is crawling with them, the parade will also feature a wide range of other eclectic costumed characters, including, but not limited to, the Santa Cruz Trash Orchestra, accordion player the Great Morgani, Stilt Walkers, Ukulele Players of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Cycling Club, Human Rights Organization and Santa Cruz Pipes and Drums.

Hodgin, otherwise known as the Opera Lady, will serve as the parade's traditional kicker.

"What I do is, I've made my own costume, and I dress up like a Valkyrie. It's a Norse goddess, made famous by Wagner's Ring Cycle. And what I do is, I have the crowd help me sing Happy New Year to the tune of Handel's Messiah [she demonstrates]. I'm at the very end of the parade, and I get the crowd singing, and what I try to do is get opposite sides of the street to compete with each other to see who can sing the loudest, so everyone has the opportunity to sing in the new year. And I like to be at the very end of the parade, because that way, once I've sung, everybody knows the parade's over.

"You know what they say, 'It's not over till the fat lady sings.'"

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