Magic Smelt Puppet Troupe Presents “Run, Smelt, Run” Parade Event

Paul Whyte

Tuesday, April 17, several volunteers of the Magic Smelt Puppet Troupe worked diligently on various tasks in preparation for the upcoming “Run, Smelt, Run” parade and smelt fry which will be held on “Earth Day,” Sunday, April 22.  The parade will begin by the Aerial Lift Bridge, behind the Maritime Visitor’s Center, and will work it’s way up to the Zeitgeist Arts Cafe in downtown Duluth.
The Magic Smelt Puppet Troupe was founded by Jim Ouray and Anton Jimenez. The first project the two worked on together was a shadow puppet show held at Harbor City International School over a year ago in January, 2011.  Ouray directed the show and Jimenez directed the music side of the project which directly involved the students of the school who came up with the theme and story line of the performance.  
Over the last year Ouray and Jimenez have headed up several activities and events such as stilt walking workshops and the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration which involved costumes, puppets and stilt walking. The Magic Smelt Troupe encourages those interested in arts and community involvement to step up and participate in this unique and developing group.  “Duluth has a positive arts community, it seems like this will fit in well with the arts scene here,” said Misty Rinkenberger who was helping out on creating “smelt clown” costumes for the upcoming event.  “I enjoy sewing, so it’s a good hobby,” added Rinkenberger.  
The arts intensive group has found a temporary workshop space located at 215 East 1st Street.  The space was offered by owner Eric Ringsred, who is letting the space be used for free.  The shop is equipped with various tools and supplies ranging from glue to silver tape and insulation which will be used to emulate the shiny scaly skin of smelt. Current projects being worked on for the parade and masks and creations from past events adorned the humble workspace. Many of the masks and other creations are made from paper mache’, the emphasis of the projects is that they will be able to be worn, presented and carried for the event. The center piece of the projects was undoubtably the “Smelt Queen” which will be presented at the parade on Sunday.  
Ouray got the idea for the parade from parades held down in New Orleans, known as “second line parades.” Ouray explained the tradition began when members of “socialite pleasure clubs” would lead the community with an array of props and “fancy suits.” Those in the club where considered the “first line” while all else from the public who participated where regarded as the second line. “I’ve participated in these three different times and I thought it would be good to bring that to Minnesota,” said Ouray.      
The parade is being held in honor of the smelt run that occurs in Lake Superior around this time of the year. “There are many seasonal celebrations such as Apple Fest in Bayfield,” said Ouray.  “It’s a cause for celebration, when there’s an abundance like smelt, it makes people happy‚Ķcelebrating this gift is part of the reason for this parade,” explained Ouray.   
It is encouraged for those attending the parade to dress up in silver, black and blue attire.  There will be bikes decked out with artistic and interesting contraptions, puppets, participants in costumes such as the “smelt clowns” and stilt walkers.  Motorized transportation is discouraged and most likely will not be allowed with the exception of those who are handicapped.
Of course no parade would be complete without some music. This event will feature The Brass Messengers out of Minneapolis, an 11 piece horn oriented band. The group has over a decade of experience playing at such events. The group started when they played at the annual “Heart of the Beast” Mayday Parade in Minneapolis and they are the perfect compliment to such an event and will carry the spirit of the New Orleans parades.  
The parade will begin by the Aerial Lift Bridge in Canal Park at 4 p.m. and will end up at the Zeitgeist building located at 222 East Superior Street by 5:30 p.m., where there will be a smelt fry.  There is no charge to participate in the parade and it is open to all ages. For those interested in helping out, there will be workshops on Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m., which will be held to put the final touches on the costumes, props, masks and other things which will be in the parade.  On Friday, April 20, there will be a rehearsal held down by the Lift Bridge at 4 p.m.
When asked about future endeavors from the group, Jimenez replied, “there’s some magic in the making.” “We’re hoping this will lead to some opportunities,” added Ouray. The parade is being sponsored in part by the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

View more of Paul Whyte's work »