Independence Day celebrations are known for fireworks, parades and cookouts. Where better to celebrate the 235th anniversary of our country's independence but in the cradle of liberty, Philadelphia.
Home to Independence Hall (where both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed) and the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia is also home to one of the biggest July 4th celebrations in the nation. With a massive fireworks display, food and music festivals, and a parade featuring more than 150 units, there is non-stop action and entertainment.
Scarborough's Gym Dandies were thrilled to be invited to Philadelphia's Independence Day parade, and delighted the massive crowds with their unicycling prowess. Approximately 60 students participated: 20 riding standard unicycles, 40 riding giraffe unicycles (with seats 5-feet off the ground), and a few riding "specialty" unicycles. The specialty unicycles include the 36-inch "big wheel" unicycle (which often rides between two columns of giraffe unicycles, "shooting the tunnel" between the larger cycles), and unicycles with two and three wheels stacked vertically.
The Gym Dandies encountered some unique challenges, like being required to walk their unicycles over the first block of the parade due to the cobblestone streets and temperatures rising above 90 degrees with high humidity, but that did not dampen their enthusiasm. Crowds cheered as they saw the mass of unicycles approaching them, and children pointed and waved to the Gym Dandies as they passed. The parade route went through the historic district of Philadelphia, past such famous landmarks as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and ending at Penn's Landing, a beautiful waterfront park along the Delaware River.
While in Philadelphia, the Gym Dandies toured the Philadelphia Zoo (where some "giraffe riders" tried their hand at riding camels), the Franklin Institute (a science museum currently featuring a mummy exhibit), and the National Constitution Center.
This was a special year for the Gym Dandies, as they celebrated their 30th anniversary. From their humble beginnings as a dozen students learning to juggle with only a bucket of tennis balls, the Gym Dandies has grown into an organization of over 200 students. They now dazzle crowds on a national level, and have performed in New York, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Montreal, and cities and towns throughout Maine. Jon Cahill, the founder and director of Gym Dandies, is still at the helm, and is now teaching unicycling, juggling and other circus arts to children of his original Gym Dandies. He was honored in May with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, and continues to be the cornerstone of the organization.
You can see the Gym Dandies locally this summer, as they will once again be featured in the Yarmouth Clam Festival Parade on Friday evening, July 15th. If you would like to learn more about the Gym Dandies, check out their website at www.gymdandies.org and friend them on Facebook (Gym Dandies, Community Organization). Tax deductible donations to support the Gym Dandies are always needed and appreciated, and information on making donations can be found on the website.
Over twenty images of the trip are on-line including the whole group, posed, just prior to the parade and a line of "giraffe riders" with Independence Hall in the background.
If you have any further questions, please contact Jon Cahill, Gym Dandies Director, at 207-332-3491.