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Puppets on Parade in Santa Monica This Weekend

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

March 23, 2013 -- Hundreds of people bearing puppets will flock to Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade Sunday to celebrate the end of Los Angeles' first-ever city-wide puppet festival.

The puppet parade, organized by Million Puppet March, will start at the north end of the Promenade around 11 a.m. and will serve as the closing ceremony for L.A. Puppet Festival, a month-long celebration of puppetry.

“Puppets can be a force for peace,” said Michael Bellavia, co-founder of Million Puppet March, an organization that aims to promote “social good through puppetry.”

“For us, social good can be anything from entertainment to mobilization,” Bellavia said.

Though Sunday's parade is merely meant to provide good, family-friendly fun, the origins of Million Puppet March are political, Bellavia said.

Bellavia founded Million Puppet March, which he called “a pop-up organization,” with Idaho-based Chris Mecham as a protest to comments made by then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney about cutting funding to the government-subsidized Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

“Neither of us were interested in puppets,” said Bellavia, but as Romney famously said that he would cut funding despite his love for Big Bird, the star of PBS' Seasame Street, using puppets seemed an appropriate method of protest.

At the November 3 protest in Washington, D.C., thousands showed up with puppets or in the costumes of their favorite puppet characters from PBS to show support for public-supported media.

Sunday's parade has a different goal, Bellavia said.

Though the parade starts at 11 a.m., Rogue Artists - - an L.A.-based “Hyper-theater” collective - - will host a puppet-making station, starting at 10 a.m.

Participants will be asked to donate their puppets to the Puppets for Peace drive, Bellavia said. The puppets then would either be donated to the school of the eight-year-old victim of the Boston bombing, Martin Richard, or donated to a children's hospital in Richard's name.

“It's a cathartic thing to go through,” Bellavia said, “the process of making a puppet or interacting with one.”

At Sunday's parade, participants will also be given a chance to enter a raffle and win a behind-the-scenes peek at the Muppets.

“For this event coming up, the Jim Henson Company generously donated two tickets to go behind the scenes at the Jim Henson lot,” said Bellavia.

There will be other prizes, he said, but the details still needed to be worked out.

The Puppet Parade Grand Marshall is Alan Cook, the founder of the International Puppetry Museum in Pasadena, who “will be recognized at the Closing Ceremonies immediately following the parade,” Festival organizers said.

There are events happening all this week. For more information about L.A. Puppet Fest, including other events, visit http:// For more information about Sunday's Parade or Million Puppet March, visit

Those interested in donating to the Puppets for Peace Drive can send their puppets to Million Puppet March 6627 Valjean Avenue Van Nuys, CA 91406.

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