A group of young unicyclists from Scarborough made history on Monday, becoming the first such performers to ride in the presidential inauguration parade, according to their director.
Forty-one children representing the Gym Dandies, a children’s circus made up entirely of students from Scarborough ranging from ages 9 to 18, celebrated President Barack Obama’s new four-year term by riding their unicycles along the route from the U.S. Capitol building to the White House.
Jon Cahill, director and founder of the Gym Dandies, said this wasn’t the first time his group has participated in a parade in the Nation’s Capital.
“We’ve been in three national Independence Day parades beginning in 2000, and two Cherry Blossom festival parades,” Cahill said Tuesday morning as he rode a bus back to Maine.
Cahill said the group had to submit an online application that included photos and a video of what they planned to do in the parade in terms of formations.
“We have one prepared for parades and we do submit them,” he said. “We have to submit our narrative telling them what our parade experiences are and honors we’ve received.”
In addition to the past performances in Washington, Cahill’s group has also performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York. The group’s application for the inauguration parade was in by Nov. 9, and Cahill learned on Dec. 17 that his group had been chosen.
“We were different than any other unit,” said Cahill. “A couple of the inauguration [officials] said everybody had been talking about us before we got there.”
Cahill said the group boarded a bus for the nation’s capital on Sunday morning, arriving on Sunday evening. After a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call on Monday, it was all business, starting with security measures similar to those found at airports, Cahill explained.
He said the group’s six-foot cycles were checked by bomb-sniffing dogs, and the Secret Service issued the Dandies identification cards that they had to wear throughout the parade. After that, it was off to a holding tent with other groups to wait to get on the route.
“I was really proud of the kids,” Cahill said, noting that the group checked in at 9:30 a.m. and stepped off the parade route at 5:30 p.m.
“All the other groups were mainly adults, marching bands and military units. They’re used to doing this. Everybody was interested in us because we were so different.”
A few of the younger kids had never been in a major parade before Monday.
“They hung right in there with the older kids. They were patient; they were persistent,” said Cahill.
Cahill said the group used “about four or five different formations” as they traversed the route, never dismounting from their unicycles. The guest of honor even recognized the youths.
“They waved at [Obama] and he waved back,” Cahill said. “I was focused on the formations so I never even looked up.”
Cahill said the group stayed in Washington on Monday night and was on its way back to Maine on Tuesday morning.