If you see a lot of puppets after finals, you’re not hallucinating -- it’s probably just the 3rd annual Appalachian Puppet Pageant.
The Cattywampus Puppet Council, a local arts nonprofit, will be bringing the annual parade to the streets of Knoxville on May 11. The parade line up will start at 11 a.m. at Dr. Walter Hardy Park and kick-off will be at noon. Ending at Paul Hogue Park, the parade is free and open to everyone.
According to the Cattywampus Puppet Council website, the Appalachian Puppet Pageant is “a giant puppet arts parade, bringing together community members of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate and share their stories through the visual and performing arts.” People are also invited to create a variety of art from puppets and masks to costumes and flags.
Rachel Milford, Executive and Artistic Director of Cattywampus Puppet Council, played a major role in starting the Cattywampus Puppet Council. She said that the Appalachian Puppet Pageant has grown hugely in the last few years.
“The event changes every year. It’s very relational work, as we build partnerships in the community,” Milford said. “The first year we did it, our budget was the lowest and we partnered with Open Streets. The second year, we actually paid to shut down streets and organized an event after the parade with dance parties and food vendors.”
The 3rd annual Appalachian Puppet Pageant is expected to be even bigger than the 2nd one, as Milford and her team plan to hold a block party after the event from 1-4 p.m at Paul Houge Park. The event will be in partnership with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Our Community Organization.
With live music from hip-hop group, “Good Guy Collective,” spoken word, water games, dancing and tabling of Knoxville organizations, the day is full of activities.
Milford stated that the theme of this year’s parade is “I See You” which was inspired by Cattywampus Puppet Council’s work with Knoxville youth. The youth program they started is called “The Parade Youth Intern Squad,” focused on conversation, art and making youth feel seen and valued for who they are.
“What would it look like if in every space, you were able to be your full self?” Milford said. “What would it look like if everyone treated you with love and respect? That’s what we hope for in our work.”
One of Milford’s favorite parts of the event is how the event brings together the community, noting how important the act of playing is.
“Our goal is to get the community of different backgrounds and ages together to create,” Milford said. “Play is a radical act in these times, and it connects us. As we get older, we get to do that less and less, but it’s no less important. We live in a world that is really challenging to live in right now, so any sort of joy making we can do are sources of fuel.”
Sophomore finance major Austin Hardesty also noted how important Knoxville events are in fostering community.
“Events like this get people from all different backgrounds together,” Hardesty said. “And I think that is always a good thing. Also, since the event is free, there aren’t as many limitations and more people will participate.”
Milford stated the bigger goal of the Appalachian Puppet Pageant is to bring the community together to focus on storytelling, sharing concerns and presenting opportunities to imagine.
“I hope we create a beautiful, big, rowdy living piece of art as a community,” Milford said. “It’s through relationships that this event happens, and the hope is that a lot of folks get to meet each other, build new relationships and create energy that carries forward to our work.”