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Bruce Hayden works on the neck and head of his dinosaur float for the 2012 Fall Foliage Parade. The dog's head, like many parts of Hayden's floats, is recycled from an earlier float and will look much different come parade day.

Hayden Named Grand Marshal of Fall Foliage Parade

By Stephen DravisSpecial to iBerkshires
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Bruce Hayden is the man behind some of the Fall Foliage Parade's most inventive floats. This year, he's expected to be out front as the grand marshal for the event his father helped found.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Bruce Hayden is making the world a better place — three minutes at a time.

The longtime "float master" of the city's Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Festival Parade has been building floats and delighting paradegoers for more than 40 years.

He works hard at his craft, but he is the first to tell you that he is not a perfectionist. And there is a good reason why.

"Sometimes [float builders] will have professional carpenters come by to help, and as they start what they'll do is get out the level or the square, and I say, 'Oh no, throw that away. That doesn't work.'

"The first thing I tell them as we start to do it is, 'Look, the people are going to see the thing for approximately three minutes. So take your levels and squares and throw them away.'"

Hayden, 61, the son of parade co-founder Francis E. "Bud" Hayden, has been named the grand marshal of the 57th annual Fall Foliage Parade, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 30, at 1 p.m.

The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce's director of programs and events said on Thursday morning that Hayden was a natural selection on a couple of different levels.

"I'm really excited to be announcing it this year," Christine Hoyt said. "After many years of asking, Bruce has accepted.

"It's a way for the committee not only to honor Bruce for all the work he does for the community and the parade, but it's also a way to recognize the entire Hayden family. His father, 'Bud' Hayden, was involved from the beginning. He helped start the festival and the parade.

"He also turned down the invitation [to be grand marshal] at one point."

Bruce Hayden said this week that he doesn't do what he does for the recognition, though he is honored to be named grand marshal, just as he was honored two years ago when the Bay State Games named him one of its Berkshire Heroes for his work with the winter sports festival.

Hayden said his biggest reward is looking into the eyes of the people who look upon his floats each autumn.

"This is fun," he said. "This is my hobby. Some people hunt. Some people fish. I do golf — if you can call what I do golfing. But this is my hobby.

"If you go down the parade route, you see all the little kids and the parents spending time with the kids. To have a family-oriented thing that they come out to at the end of the year ... That's why I do it. I like to do it, and it's good for the community."

Bruce Hayden measures out the green covering that will be used on the dinosaur float he is constructing for the 2012 Fall Foliage Parade. Below, working with Billy Girard.

On Wednesday evening in a city garage off Canal Street, a small community of volunteers was hard at work turning imagination into reality.

While Hayden and his "crew" worked on the skeleton that will become a life-size animated dinosaur, a nearby group from First Baptist Church was plugging away at its version of Noah's Ark.

Hayden happily contributes his expertise, his time and the services of his own workers to help other community groups enter floats in the parade.

That's another reason why he doesn't worry about levels and T-squares. By keeping things informal, Hayden makes sure anyone who wants to get involved can get involved.

"It makes it easier for everyone to work together," he said. "There's not so much tension of people doing the 'wrong thing' or this or that. It makes it a fun thing."

Hayden has been having fun on the parade since he was 6 years old — first as one of the children dressed in ccostumes accompanying one of the floats. When he was 9, his father told him he was too big to be one of the "little" ones.

"We had built a birthday cake with rocking horses on it, and ... he said, 'Bruce, I'd like to have it spin around,'" Hayden said. "This was before motors and all that.

"He put me underneath the cake, inside, closed it up, and I rode the whole parade spinning my sisters and cousins on the thing through the whole parade."

Today, Bruce Hayden continues the tradition of getting youngsters involved with the floats.

"My grandson is 5 now, and he remembers the first time he was on it [two years ago]," Hayden said. "He's already giving me ideas for next year's float."

His days of riding inside the float are long behind him. These days, Hayden is always on the outside, where he can appreciate the crowd reaction to his creation.

That does create a logistical problem for this year's parade. Hayden's floats — one of the highlights each year — traditionally go near the end of the parade; the grand marshal traditionally rides at the front.

The Hoyt said she and the parade committee are working on how to resolve the problem.

"We can certainly figure something out," she said. "Maybe we can have him in the middle of the parade or the back of the parade but still have a car with his name on it at the front. If it's a nice day, maybe we'll use his own convertible.

"We have a parade line-up meeting next week, and I've charged the committee with that difficult decision. It's all friendly, but it's something we need to figure out."

Hayden said whatever they decide, it won't involve separating him from his dinosaur.

"I told them, 'Look, you do what you have to do. I'm going to be with my float,'" he said. "I'm happy to accept being grand marshal, but maybe I'm going to be like Waldo. You'll have to find me.

Tags: Fall Foliage,   parade,   

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