Just east of downtown Indianapolis, Woodruff Place's medians, fountains, statues and beautiful oak trees hint at its past position as one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods. It was once a community with social interactions so complex that they might inspire a novel. And, in fact, they did. Booth Tarkington used the area as inspiration for his 1918 novel TheMagnificent Ambersons. But the 20th century wasn't especially kind, for the most part, to the area. Its stately Victorian homes were often subdivided into apartments. Its fountains fell into disrepair. Many of its residents moved to the inner and, later, outer central Indiana suburbs.
In the latter part of the last century, though, things began to shift again. Renovation and renewal became a normal part of Woodruff Place life, as did an increasing emphasis on a quirky sort of community spirit. One very special local parade tradition, the Woodruff Place Lawn Chair Brigade, grew out of the neighborhood's distinctive and irreverent attitude and a bit of enthusiasm from its founder, Tom Abeel. Since 1992, the Brigade has marched, with "standard issue" aluminum-frame web lawn chairs in what could be best described as semi-precision movements at the 500 Festival, St. Patrick's Day and other parades. The Brigade is a mostly male group, so Woodruff's women formed the Umbrella Chicks and now march in many parades, too.
While Tarkington likely wouldn't have written a novel on the group, Dick Wolfsie found them interesting enough to include in his guide to weird Hoosier things, Indiana Curiosities. We find them interesting enough to share -- and to get us more excited about upcoming parades. Check out this video produced by Kurtis Bowersock to see the Brigade in action.