Coming off a big presence with their float in the 131st Rose Parade in Pasadena, descendants of passengers on the Mayflower who settled Plymouth Colony in 1620, also known as the original Pilgrims, have a few things to clear up with the public.
For one thing, there were no black clothes and buckled shoes, and in fact, Pilgrims wore clothing in a range of colors. Blame the history books that couldn’t afford the expensive ink to document the clothing properly for that misconception, said Carole Curran of the Society of Mayflower Descendents in the State of California.
Curran was also the Float Chair for the Society of Mayflower Descendents, who rode aboard the great float they entered in the Rose Parade to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims voyage aboard the Mayflower to come to America.
But there’s more education to do, Curran said. She and several of her fellow Mayflower Descendents will be on hand for a meet and greet Thursday, January 9 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Hastings Branch of the Pasadena Public Library.
“We want to educate children and their families about the Mayflower and the journey of our Pilgrim ancestors, and we’ll be attending in Pilgrim attire,” Curran said. “We’ll do some educational information about how long the voyage was, the kinds of people who came over, and we want to bust the myth that Pilgrims wore buckles and black. The Pilgrims wore colors and I think we were able to show that during the Rose Parade.”
There will be many other events across the country to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims.
“A lot of the people on the ship were in the clothing industry,” Curran said. “Each one who came had a skill that helped the colony survive. But the clothing we wear is period-correct. The artists would say ‘Gee, blue paint is expensive so I’ll make it grey instead,'” Curran said. “The artists painting the period weren’t exact.”
The most significant development was The Mayflower Compact proclaiming self-governance, upon which the U.S. Constitution is based.
“The purpose of our entry into the Rose Parade was to help people connect the dots,” she said.
Curran is a longtime member and honorary director of the Tournament of Roses. She and her crew put together a spectacular float to celebrate the 400th year anniversary.
“As float chair, I was working on the float for two years,” she said. “I served as part of the float design crew and was responsible for the selection of the riders, fundraising and PR, and brought in the team members for float decorating chair and coordinator.
While the average float in the parade cost about $250,000, Curran said the Mayflower float was more ornate and had some more moving parts to get the message across.
“Ours was a little more expensive,” she said. “The floats come in a variety of sizes. Ours was 55 feet and some are even larger. The more bells and whistles a float has, the more expensive it is.”
Curran said she hasn’t exactly mapped out the presentation her group will give at the library, but she wants to clear up some misconceptions.
“Pilgrims are always depicted wearing black and with buckles on their shoes,” she said. “They didn’t even have buckles then.”
Curran also indicated that contrary to what people may think about the relationship between the Pilgrims and the native Americans, the Pilgrims had a successful reciprocal pact with the Wampanoag Nation for 57 years. The Wampanoag native Americans were based in the Cape Cod, Mass. region.
“The Wampanoag basically kept us alive and protected the Pilgrims, and we protected them from other tribes,” Curran said. “We all owe a great debt to the Wampanoag.”
The history of the Pilgrims — and their intent in America — was to center on building a better life.
“Our story is pretty clean. The Pilgrims didn’t come to conquer, we came to settle America, they brought their families, we didn’t come with an army, we came with babies,” Curran said. “We see the meet and greet as an opportunity to bring our stories to life.”
The Mayflower Descendents Meet and Greet will be held Thursday, January 9 at the Hastings Branch of the Pasadena Public Library, 3325 E Orange Grove Blvd.