8 Parade Entries To Watch For On Tuesday

The 56th US Presidential Inauguration will take place on Tuesday, January 20th, although the festivities begin this weekend. The traditional parade will take place Tuesday afternoon after the swearing-in ceremony. Of the many parade participants, here are just a few that deserve a closer view.

1. Azalea Trail Maids

The Azalea Trail Maids of Mobile, Alabama are a group of 50 high school senior girls who dress in pastel 19th-century hoop skirts and serve as representatives of Mobile. The Maids appeared in the 2005 Inaugural Parade and were surprised to be invited again this year. Comments made by Alabama's NAACP President Edward Vaughn produced a flurry of news stories and discussions on whether the Maids were appropriate for this inauguration. Vaughn said the dresses reminded him of slavery, and the Maids would make Alabama the laughingstock of the nation. Vaughn has since apologized for his remarks.

2. Lawn Rangers

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The World Famous Lawn Rangers of Arcola, Illinois are a precision drill team of men who march with brooms and lawn mowers. They aren't at all serious about it, and they aren't all that precise. But they have attracted some high-profile members like Dave Barry, and Barack Obama even marched with them in 2003. See a video of the Lawn Rangers in action.

3. Moon Buggy

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For the first time, NASA will be represented in the inaugural parade this year by a lunar vehicle. Astronaut Michael Gernhardt will drive the moon buggy prototype designed for a moon mission planned for about twelve years from now. The crew of the space shuttle Endeavor's latest mission will also march in the parade.

4. Tuskeegee Airmen

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The Tuskeegee Airmen, who fought valiantly in World War II, were featured in the presidential inauguration once before, in 1949. But that was only a flyover, and they never got anywhere near the actual inauguration. This year will be different. The 250 surviving members of the all-black unit will be honored guests with seats at the swearing-in ceremony. They will ride vintage cars in the parade, and president Obama plans a special salute to the Airmen, all now in their 80s and 90s.

5. Lesbian and Gay Band Association

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The Lesbian and Gay Band Association will send an all-star marching band to the inaugural parade. This will be the first year that an openly gay group has been invited to participate in the parade. The LGBA is a confederation of 34 different marching bands and orchestras around the world. The band will perform five songs, the "Washington Post March" by John Philip Sousa, "Ode to Joy," by Ludwig van Beethoven, "Hold On, I'm Comin'", popularized by Sam and Dave, "Brand New Day," from the Broadway musical The Wiz, and "Manhattan Beach" by John Philip Sousa.

6. Soapbox Derby Car

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The South Cobb High School Blue Eagle marching band is one of several high school bands invited to the inaugural parade. One member of the band, 14-year-old drummer drummer Devin Robinson suffers from a neuromuscular disease and requires a vehicle in order to participate. Devan Seabaugh, the soapbox car enthusiast who brought soapbox derby racing to Marietta, came up with the solution.

Seabaugh looked on the wall of his office at Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service, where he is vice president, and studied the picture of himself in a soapbox derby car built for an adult."I said, "˜This would work.' I've got this car I built for adults to race. It's called a celebrity car for people like the mayor to race to open the soapbox derby," Seabaugh said.

Seabaugh's car will become part of history as Robinson and his drums ride in the parade. Devin's father, Gerald D. Robinson will push him in the soapbox derby car with a specially-installed handle.

Band director Zach Cogdill saw the car Tuesday night. "It's perfect," he said. "It can not be more perfect. It's exactly what I wanted. It fits in with the parade. It fits in with the nostalgia of the event."

7. Suurimmaanitchuat Dancers

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The Suurimmaanitchuat Dancers of Barrow, Alaska are a 22-member troupe that has performed together for 20 years. They are the only native Alaskan group invited to the inaugural parade. They almost didn't get on the roster. Member Rex Okakok was told over and over that it was too late to apply for the parade. But his persistance paid off as the invitation finally came. The Suurimmaanitchuat Dancers perform traditional Eskimo dances plus some modern innovations, including an Elvis dance and a dance that imitates a stewardess giving pre-flight instructions.

8. 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

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The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an unit of African-American soldiers with white officers who fought during the Civil War. The group's exploits were brought to the modern public in the 1989 movie Glory. OK, the actual infantry won't be marching in the inaugural parade, but Civil War re-enactors known as 54th's Company A will portray the unit in Tuesday's parade. The re-enactors are based in Boston and formed after seeing the movie Glory. Some of the members are descendants of the original 54th Infantry.

The inaugural parade will begin at 2:30 Tuesday, January 20th and will begin at Lafayette Square, proceed along Pennsylvania Avenue, and will end at the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

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Courtesy of October Films
This Scientist's Idea of the 'Perfect' Human Body Is Kind of Terrifying
Courtesy of October Films
Courtesy of October Films

The perfect human body has the legs of an ostrich, the heart of a dog, and the eyes of an octopus, according to anatomist Alice Roberts. And it’s utterly terrifying.

With the help of anatomical artist Scott Eaton and special effects designer Sangeet Prabhaker, Roberts created a life-size replica of herself that fixes many design flaws inherent to the human body, Motherboard reports. Roberts unveiled the sculpture on April 23 at the Science Museum in London. On June 13, the BBC released a documentary about the project.

Among the flaws Roberts’s sculpture corrects are humans’ inferior ears, spine, and lungs. Roberts borrowed anatomy from reptiles, birds, and other mammals to create a Frankenstein-esque creature straight from the island of Dr. Moreau.

The sculpture of Alice 2.0, left, with Alice Roberts, right
Courtesy of October Films

The sculpture has legs like an ostrich because, as Roberts says on her website, the human knee is complex and prone to failure. Like humans, ostriches are bipedal, but they are far better runners. Bird-like lungs that keep air flowing in one direction, not two, make running and other aerobic activities easier for the perfect human to manage. And a chimpanzee’s sturdier spine and a dog’s heart (which has more connected arteries, leading to lower heart attack risk) make Roberts’s alternate self more resistant to injury and disease.

Roberts’s ideal human body also has skin like a frog that can change shades based on the environment, and large, bat-like ears that amplify sound. Roberts also fixed humans’ backwards retina, which produces a natural blind spot, by borrowing from octopus eye anatomy.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the baby head poking out of the sculpture’s marsupial pouch. Roberts says marsupial pregnancy would be far easier on the human body and more convenient for parents on the go.

“This could be a human fit for the future,” Roberts says at the end of a trailer for her BBC documentary.

[h/t Motherboard]

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iStock
Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station Are Throwing a Party for Pride Month
iStock
iStock

Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station are gearing up to celebrate Pride month in one of the world's harshest environments. On Saturday, June 9, the station will host what Hannah Valian, who deals with the center's recycling efforts, calls "one of the larger parties ever thrown" at the station.

McMurdo Station is an Antarctic research facility owned and operated by the United States. The station is more sparsely populated during Antarctica's colder autumn and winter seasons (which run from March to September), but employees tell us there's still a decent-sized LGBTQ scene to celebrate this June.

About 10 of the 133 people currently at McMurdo identify as LGBTQ, says Rachel Bowens-Rubin, a station laboratory assistant. Valian said the idea for a Pride celebration came up in May at one of the station's regular LGBTQ socials.

"Everyone got really excited about it," she tells Mental Floss via email. "So we ran with it."

Ten individuals are wearing coats while holding a rainbow-colored Pride flag. They are standing in snow with mountains in the distance.
"I hope when people see this photo they'll be reminded that LGBTQ people aren't limited to a place, a culture, or a climate," McMurdo's Evan Townsend tells Mental Floss. "We are important and valuable members of every community, even at the bottom of the world."
Courtesy of Shawn Waldron

Despite reports that this is the continent's first Pride party, none of the event's organizers are convinced this is the first Pride celebration Antarctica has seen. Sous chef Zach Morgan tells us he's been attending LGBTQ socials at McMurdo since 2009.

"The notion is certainly not new here," he says.

To Evan Townsend, a steward at the station, this weekend's Pride event is less a milestone and more a reflection of the history of queer acceptance in Antarctica.

"If anything," Townsend says, "recognition belongs to those who came to Antarctica as open members of the LGBTQ community during much less welcoming times in the recent past."

This week, though, McMurdo's employees only had positive things to say about the station's acceptance of LGBTQ people.

"I have always felt like a valued member of the community here," Morgan tells us in an email. "Most people I've met here have been open and supportive. I've never felt the need to hide myself here, and that's one of the reasons I love working here."

Saturday's celebration will feature a dance floor, photo booth, lip sync battles, live music, and a short skit explaining the history of Pride, Valian says.

"At the very least, I hope the attention our Pride celebration has garnered has inspired someone to go out and explore the world, even if they might feel different or afraid they might not fit in," Morgan says. "'Cause even on the most inhospitable place on Earth, there's still people who will love and respect you no matter who you are."

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