Peaceful Demonstration – ‘Peace Pilgrim’ puppets entertain crowds

Estes Park Trail Gazette – by Lucie R. Willsie
August 9, 2000

They are a sight to behold and carry a message of peace.

“Oh, my gosh,’ was heard throughout the crowd, as all heads started to turn.

Immersed in the crooning of the singing cowboy, Brad Fitch, almost no one at first noticed the commotion going on 60 feet away, except of course, for the startled couple and their black lab.

It was difficult to judge who was more startled.  After all, it’s not every day- actually, it’s almost never any other day- that anyone has seen a 23-foot puppet walking down the street.

But Andy Pizer, owner of the Millennium Group, and Steve Klubertanz, one of the other puppeteers, have become quite used to not only donning these larger-than-life peppets, called the Peace Pilgrims, but also walkiing and dancing and cavorting with an audience while operating these billowy monoliths.

These free performances usually last between 15 and 25 minutes, Pizer said. “It’s pretty spectacular.  They are a gift to the community.  We just want to contribute.

They began performing here in Estes Park about three months ago.  “It’s a perfect place for something larger than life,” Pizer said.  It usually takes from six to 10 performances to really get the hang of it.  “It boils down to balance,” Pizer said.  These puppets are made of fiberglass and Chinese silk and weigh about 30 pounds each.

“The hardest part about the puppets is the weather,” Kluberstanz said.  “Obviously, you can’t do it while its raining.”

The biggest problem is that people want to touch the puppets.

“It’s so big you have to exagerate your movements, ” Kluberstanz explained.  So, it’s quite a delicate procedure to make it look light and airy, and also to get involved with the crown.

“They’ll pull you over,’ he added.  It’s more a matter of balance than weight.  And more a matter of fludity and lack of inhibition to be able to dance around like that.

A set choreography hasn’t been worked out yet, but is in the works.  “It’s work in progress,’ Pizer added.  “We hope to have 10 to 20, within the next five years.  These billowing giants have already been invited to perform in other cities in Colorado, as well as in other states.

Both Pizer and Jinx Davis moved here from Wisconsin in November.  The theatre company that sponsors these puppets, Mode theatre Living Arts Corporation, and run by Davis, director of the Peache Pilgrims, received the usage rights from internally acclaimed “Mas” man Peter Minshall of Trinidad, West Indies.  A “Mas” man is a lader of a masquerade group.  Minshall created the first of these ‘dancing mobiles’ eleven years ago.

But it’s Rhian Ramkissoon’s family from Trinidad who are “the chief orchestrators of this project,” Pizer said.

These giant puppets are a colorful Carnival tradition in Trinidad.  Color and flair distilled into simple forms are indicative of Trinidad society.  But they also have a higher signiicance.
Art cannot exist only in the hallowed halls of our museums, civic centers and universities,’ Davis wrote in her artists’ statement.  She tries to celebrate art through life and music and dance as well.

The pair first got the idea for these puppets from the opening ceremonies for the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, where these puppets were prminently featured.  That is when they began studying Trinidad art, Davis said, and then they received a research grant from the Wisconsin Art Board to study with Trinidad artists.  So, in 1996 they spent a month in Trinidad.

“We asked Trinidad toc reate a symbol ro remind America that they could be larger than themselves,” Davis explained.  They gave them books of Colorado to help them come up with their own designs.

Today, three puppets have been created.


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January 10, 2015