Snoopy's Sopwith Camel rises above the under-construction parade floats at the old City Yard.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Float guru Bruce Hayden has been racking up hours at the former city yard on Ashland Street putting the finishing touches on a convoy of floats that will appear Sunday in the 63rd Fall Foliage Festival Parade.
And he is happy about this year's theme: "The Year of the Dog."
"Normally they do something like 'Foliage in the Berkshires' but how many times can you make a leaf," Hayden laughed as he ripped knobs off a grill to be used for one of the floats. "You want to make the kids laugh. They don't want to see a politician and they may like fire trucks, but they don't need to see 1,000 of them."
"They like to see floats."
And Hayden does not want to disappoint.
He was buzzing with excitement earlier this week as he tore open the garage door to reveal what he and the volunteers have been up to for the past month.
"They look awesome," Hayden said as he pointed to the six dog-themed floats at various stages of completion. "I have done a lot of these and I am impressed."
Hayden is the son of parade co-founder Francis E. "Bud" Hayden, for whom one of the float awards is named, and has been heavily involved in the parade for almost 50 years. It's been over this time that he has perfected the art of float building. His dedication was recognized in 2012 when he was named the parade's grand marshal.
"I am here. I am the brain of it if they need help I am here," he said. "Not that I am conceited or anything, but I have years of experience and I know how to hide stuff."
Hayden brought the recently pulled grill knobs to MountainOne Vice President Richard Alcombright, who was preparing to fasten them to a large television on the bank's "101 Dalmatians"-themed float.
The former mayor said his team from MountainOne wants to recreate the popular scene from the cartoon when the Dalmatians puppies watch cartoons on TV.
He added that the float will also contain a real Dalmatian and Cruella de Vil herself.
"De Vil will be up there on her big couch," Alcombright said. "She will be front and center taunting the crowd and scaring the kids."
Hayden pointed out his own Charlie Brown-themed float that he is building for 1Berkshire. He said Snoopy will sit in his Sopwith Camel mounted on top of the float pulled by a doghouse lead by Woodstock.
Hayden proudly said he would be the Red Baron driving a second red plane around the float bellowing smoke.
Alcombright left his own float to point out that the red plane already has some miles on it.
"He was out driving down the street in it. I encouraged it," Alcombright said. "I told him if you were a payloader going down to the cemetery with cars behind you people would be honking and yelling but people were smiling, laughing and applauding."
Hayden said floats were not always a big part of the parade and thought that without these goliath collages of color and motion some of the parades were a little dull. More than 10 years ago he had suggested eliminating one of the bands that are often paid thousands of dollars to appear and instead sponsor some homegrown floats.
He said a typical float costs $500 but this amount can range between $200 and $1,000. He said by eliminating a single band, plenty of floats could be added.
Ever since then, local businesses and organizations have sponsored or built their own floats for the parade.
Hayden said he was especially excited about the First Baptist Church's "Paw Patrol" float this year.
"One of the dogs will turn its head around and the other will shoot water," he said. "We try to reuse everything like the radar tower was on an older float ... it comes back around, and we reuse it."
Hayden showed off some of the other floats and pointed to the Greylock School float that will model the actual school and the North Adams Youth Hockey float that will feature dogs playing hockey.
Hayden became a little nostalgic when he came to the Very Good Property Development's dachshund float that still had exposed chicken wire.
"Years ago, we used to take something like this chicken wire and stuff it with Kleenex and you had to stuff every hole and hope it didn't rain," he said. "One time we had the Girl Scouts plugging the wire with Kleenex and they thought they were great and my grandfather shook it and because they didn't do every hole they all came out."
Alcombright said he remembered those days and noted the use of spray-on craft glue was huge and greatly shored up rogue Kleenex.
He said the inventiveness of the floats continues to amaze him. The parade has suffered in recent years, he said, but through Hayden's efforts and more people getting involved, a new interest in the parade has been reignited.
"The parade really three years ago, I think really hit an all-time low, and I was kind of posed with the question should it continue or not. But I was not going to let it not continue on my watch," he said. "In the last three years, this committee has grown and that has helped us."
Alcombright thanked "Mr. Float" for continually jump-starting the parade.
"This guy is the guru. He is Mr. Float it is genetically placed in you," he told Hayden.
Hayden had one request this year: make sure the kids go.
"I want people to bring out the kids because they are going to be impressed. Make sure the kids come this year," he said. "They have to come to this one."
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