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Handmade History

Handmade Parade is a biannual, community-created tradition and a grassroots, Mardi Gras-style walking parade with music, costumes, painted faces, puppets, stilt walkers, dancers, and so much more!


This legendary spectacle of imagination is an opportunity to dance together in the streets of Hillsborough, NC, celebrating community, creativity, and fun!

Picture giant handmade puppets, rollicking ragtime bands, performers on stilts, dancing troupes, and hundreds of children and adults marching through the streets of a small North Carolina town celebrating the diversity of their community...

The Hillsborough Handmade Parade was conceived in 2007 as an annual community participation celebration by Mark Donley and Tinka Jordy. In the spring of 2008, a series of workshops both public and private were initiated that led to the First Handmade Parade in October 2008.

A Word from HAC Programs & Marketing Director:

It wasn’t that long ago I spent my days in a corporate cubicle, writing in a journal about how badly I wanted to work for a small nonprofit. I’d never assembled a giant puppet or coordinated so many strangers to dance or march down a main street. I’d never asked community members to volunteer to dress up as a bluebird and a dog to walk through town with our former mayor visiting other local characters in a promotional video.

Hillsborough's 2022 Found Object Handmade Parade with Bird, Dog, and former Mayor Tom Stevens. Videography courtesy of Drone Data and Film. 

While inventorying puppets and materials for workshops, Mollie Thomas, HAC's former Executive Director, and I found a box of old shoes and belts in the HAC storage room at the Cedar Grove Community Center and joked about how ridiculous that was. Why would HAC need a random box of old thrift rack shoes and belts? It wasn’t until we were on the lawn at parade staging that a veteran volunteer arrived and asked, "Where are the pole-holding shoe belts?"

That first year, I couldn’t stop welling up with the absurdity of it and asking myself how on earth I found myself here, and at the same time - Of course I did. This is exactly the kind of work I've wanted to do. 

How to stage participants (who may or may not show up to the Burwell School) popped into my head one day, and I captured it in a sketchbook. The uncertainty was humbling and liberating.

With a clipboard in hand, my face painted, a walky-talky on my hip, a flower crown on my head, and giant handmade animals in every color of the rainbow - a horizon behind me - tears burst from my face as we rounded a corner and I locked eyes with Mollie. I saw her witnessing the same thing I was. It happened, we did it, and our entire community did it with us!

Thousands of people came together to revel in the gregarious, satirical, their talents, to play together. It was overwhelmingly cool and rare and interesting. The air bubbled. That day is imprinted on my heart and can still bring tears to my eyes.

This event is an invitation to put down our fear and self-consciousness, the stories we tell ourselves, our self-limiting beliefs, for a few precious hours. It's an invitation to be open, there, and a part of something.

Handmade Parade has a long history of being themed to honor the Eno River and up-cycling, breathing new life into our world with imagination, ingenuity, and what we already have. Those concepts are woven into the identity of this parade and will continue to be a forever theme. We invite you to find inspiration in them year over year.

This year, we introduce a parade inspiration as well, and it feels only appropriate for a town well-known for its writers and poets. In a word...


*n. the sudden realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own - with their own ambitions, routines, loves, worries, and pain - an epic story that continues invisibly around you, in which you might appear once, in the background of a coffee shop, in a car passing on the highway, or, in moments like this - dancing in the streets of Hillsborough, NC, in the Handmade Parade.*

On June 1, 2024, we let the mundane and banal, the monotonous and humdrum, rest. We come together as our most imaginative selves, in support of one another, to celebrate fun and what becomes possible when we come together.

It is an honor to serve this place and our community. Thank you for allowing me to learn from and with you. I can’t wait to do it again - This time with a little experience.

Ivana (Iva) Beveridge

Hillsborough Arts Council
Programs & Marketing Director

Blasts from the Past:

2022 event photography courtesy of Donn Young and Drone Data and Film.

"In summer 2006, when I was three years old, I found my love for puppetry. With that love I started making fabric and cardboard creations of my own from found objects around my house. My puppets gradually started getting bigger and better as I got older.


In 2010, when I was a six year old kindergarten student, my parents, who supported my love of art and puppetry from day one, learned of a community event in Hillsborough called the Handmade Parade. I was so excited to learn of how many local artists and puppeteers there were, and knew right away that I wanted to participate. A parade full of giant puppets and masks was like a trip to the toy store for me. My parents signed me and my two friends up for a slot in the parade.


“There’s an option to list the name of your group for the parade, do you want to give yourselves a name?” my mom asked. “How about 1,2,3 Puppetry?” I answered. Right then, my company was born, and would continue to grow and develop into what it is today. The Handmade Parade was the push that created 1,2,3 Puppetry.


I am beyond grateful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had with the Hillsborough Arts Council. From leading the annual Solstice Lantern Walk with my giant light up moon puppet for the past three years, to leading found object puppet workshops, to creating a full circle moment by leading the 2022 Handmade Parade, I’ve made wonderful friends, connections, and memories that I will always hold dear.


The Hillsborough Arts Council makes it their mission to connect with people and communities through art. Great art requires a great team and community, and the people of Hillsborough and Orange County are privileged to have the HAC as a staple of the community."

Sol Ramirez

Artist, Activist, Musician, Puppeteer  Creator/Director of 1,2,3 Puppetry


The Hillsborough Handmade Parade 2018

Hillsborough Handmade Puppet Parade - 2016


The Fifth Hillsborough Handmade Parade - 2014

Hillsborough Handmade Parade Oct. 2012

Bulltown Strutters at Hillsborough Handmade Parade 2012 - Iko Iko

Hillsborough Handmade Parade 2010 Part A

Hillsborough Handmade Parade and the Paperhand Puppet Intervention - 2009

The Hillsborough Handmade Parade 2009

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