Hummers parade kicks off haphazard new year in Middletown

Jack Schreppler said he was pleased with the “disorganization” of the 2019 Hummers parade that took to the streets in Middletown, Delaware, Tuesday. He should know what works and what doesn’t; he’s been a part of every parade with the exception of the first one in 1971.

The story of that first parade is well known by the locals.

Dutch Miller and Julian Sheets, who ran a car dealership, loved watching the Philadelphia Mummers parade on TV. One year, Miller was sick, so Sheets organized an impromptu parade. That procession at the corner of Cass and Cochran was the first Hummers parade.

A 14-year-old Schreppler went the second year. Sheets thought he looked like he belonged at the head of the parade — and so it began.

For nearly five decades now, he puts on his roller skates to skate in the New Year. He takes his role seriously, donning formal attire complete with a top hat.

Schreppler says he never censors floats that appear in the parade — although he may have raised an eyebrow at one or two over the years.

“I did the first float,” he said. “We had a two-seater outhouse on the back of a truck, and Santa would come out and pull up his pants.”  His favorite was the year that Clark Beck cooked a pig, dressed as an Amish person, and created “Hot Hammered Hog.”

By now you should get the idea. Over the years the Hummers parade has been a chance to satirize the events of the year before.

“I expect to see lots of fake news, Trump, Nick Foles, and [Bill] Cosby,” Schreppler said as the trucks, vans, and cars carrying the 2019 version of the parade began assembling shortly after noon.

There weren’t any Cosby floats, but there were flocks of Eagles floats.  Those behind Donald Trump masks were talking a lot about building a wall.

Clay Wessell of Townsend made good his promise that if the Eagles won the Super Bowl he would “streak” down Broad Street.  Wearing a bodystocking below the waist, he alternated between sporting a sandwich board and just letting things fly.

The Barbera kids — George, Kyle, and Katlyn — had a good time impersonating Eagles quarterbacks Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, and crying Patriot quarterback Tom Brady.

Among other kids in this year’s parade, a group kicked around a soccer ball in a nod to the team that was trapped for 18 days in that cave in Thailand last year.

“Sometimes you have to leave the kids at home,” said Norma Sadler of Middletown. She and Jay Crosby were back after taking several years off from watching. “It’s always interesting,” she added.

Not too many local issues made their way into Hummers notoriety this year, although Cynthia Fergueson of Wilmington was part of a group that brought along “Hempie” and a float focused on Delaware’s consideration of legalizing marijuana.

There were two Burt Reynolds floats saluting the actor who died in September. Donna Wood of Middletown and her family and friends from the Dutch Neck Farms development honored Reynolds through a “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Deliverance” combination float.

Brandon Diaz, who runs an auto repair shop in Smyrna, took it one step further. When one of his customers decided to junk his car — a dead ringer for the one in “Smokey and the Bandit” — Diaz cut off the top and took out the windshield to recreate the car from the movie.

“We came up with the idea about two weeks ago,” he said.

Art Wilson of Clayton has been a parade spectator few times, but this year he wanted to be in it.

“I wanted to show off my dune buggy as a tribute to the beach,” he said. The car is a copy of the Meyers Manx, created by Bruce Meyers. Wilson was especially proud of the gigantic shark on top of the buggy, autographed by the 93-year-old Meyers himself.

And then there was Donald Trump — and everything associated with the wall, the government shutdown, and fake news.

Norton Nearly of Townsend wore a Trump mask and carried a sandwich board. Mike Wipf of New Castle had the whole family taking on different aspects of the migrant caravan and building a border wall.  One part of a picket fence in the parade read, “I’m Russian, let me in.”

Stacey Robinson of Clayton wanted to remember the trio who pulled off the GoFundMe scam that technically happened in 2017, but wasn’t unmasked until the fall.

And parade watchers were serenaded with a recording of Brett Kavanaugh’s sworn testimony that he likes beer.

They were also treated to temperatures in the low 60s — a far cry from the high of just 7 for last year’s festivities.

Hundreds of people lined Broad Street and the parade route turn around Main Street. And the parade stepped off right on time when Schreppler sounded his duck whistle at 1 p.m. The last float passed the Everett Theater on Main Street at 1:55, the parade’s farthest point.  And, by 2:15, the streets were clear and traffic was moving smoothly out of town.

Another Hummers parade is in the books. Now we wait for 2019 to offer inspiration for next year.

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