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Parading puppets take first place

The 15-foot tall Journey Ministries puppets took first place in the float competition in Saturday's King Turkey Day parade. "You never knew whether they were looking at you or the puppet," parade participant Bob Miller said.

WORTHINGTON -- The King Turkey Day parade draws a huge crowd to downtown Worthington every year, but not everyone realizes how much time and effort goes into designing entries and walking the route.

First prize for the parade entries for the KTD parade this year went to a group of men who created something that may have never been seen in Worthington before -- giant walking puppets.

Bob Miller, one of 12 men who "wore" a puppet and walked the parade route as part of the Journey Ministries entry, said the most precious part of participating in the parade was watching the faces of both children and adults.

"You never knew whether they were looking at you or the puppet," Miller laughed. "Some of the kids, I would wave or yell to get their attention and they would look at me. Then I would lean over and they would look up to see the huge head hanging over them. It was priceless."

Miller said they were surprised to learn they had won first place.

"We don't really think about the judging," he admitted. "We're just guys who get together and try to catch a vision. It is so great to watch all these guys work together to create something, and even more fun to watch some of them step outside their comfort zone for something like this."

The plans for the puppets came from a professional puppet designer, then the men from Journey had to figure out how to work with inexpensive materials and build the creations from scratch. The puppets were strapped on the back, "kind of like a wooden backpack," Miller said, then had poles that went from a person's hand to the puppet's hand.

"The puppets' feet were tied to our feet at the ankles," Miller explained.

And while it may sound as though some serious puppeteering skills were involved, Miller said the men got together for the first time Friday night to don their alter egos as a group.

The weather, which started out a bit "iffy" Saturday morning, cleared nicely by the time 2 p.m. rolled around. Paycheck had trounced Ruby Begonia quite firmly during the Great Gobbler Gallop, and the audience was eager afterward to wave and applaud to all the participants.

"I wish more people would have the opportunity to participate in things like this," Miller said. "We had a blast."

Miller wouldn't say exactly what he has planned for next year, but it is bound to be unique.

"I have all sorts of ideas swirling around in my head," he laughed. "Probably more ideas than I can crank out."