Today (July, 3 2014), locals in Crested Butte, Colo. are preparing for their annual parade by making pies, putting the final touches on the floats and picking skunk cabbage leaves. On the Fourth of July, most towns and cities across America don the traditional red white and blue for their celebratory parades. But for Crested Butte locals wear green, but not just any green, skunk cabbage leaf green. While marching backward down Elk Avenue, extremely well-educated scientists play instruments and chant "Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory." Their costumes are carefully placed skunk cabbage foliage, some wear undergarments others go au naturale.
Are they mad? If you consider genius and madness a nano-particle apart, perhaps. But in truth they are a group of scientists at the nearby research station, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. Students arrive each summer to the old mining town of Gothic to study with RMBL (aka rumble). They focus on local plants and vegetation, pollinator insects and parade costume design, their leafy garments made from what they refer to as Veratrum californicum.
According to a story in today's Wall Street Journal (WSJ, July 3, 2014), the tradition started in 1984 with a professor Dirk Van Vuren and two students, Paul Valiulis, and a second whose name no one seems to remember. Julia Harte, the journalist writing the story for WSJ, remembers walking the parade as a child, when her parents worked at the lab. To gain favor with the local community, students wore the cabbage leaves as skirts with little else. In the WSJ, long-time professor Van Vuren recalls parade watchers liking the idea so much they pulled off their leaves at the end of the parade, ala Chippendale dancers. No dollar bills were exchanged, but the tradition stuck. Link here for a video of the parade.
Photosynthesis demands when there are plants, there has to be water and sunshine. There is no shortage of sun in Colorado, but for water, the local firehouse is here to help. The first section of the parade on Elk Avenue starts with a water fight from the local fire house. The fire fighters show no mercy, so visitors who wish to remain dry are forewarned to stay away. The festivities include a pancake breakfast, marathon from Gothic to Crested Butte, as well as pie and hot-dog eating contests.
Crested Butte July 4th Parade
Parade begins at 11am, link here for the full schedule.