RIGA - Why do blondes go to Riga on the last weekend of May? Nope, this is not another bad blonde joke. The answer is, they go for the annual Riga go blonde parade.
An event that first began in 2008 in an effort to try and bring some happiness to the people of Latvia in the midst of the global financial crisis, the parade has now warped into one of the biggest events on the Baltic calendar each year, attracting participants and media from around the world.
The idea came after Latvian socialite and former Mrs. Universe 2008, Marika Gerdete, participated in a similar parade in Bulgaria. Impressed by the positive response from participants and spectators alike, Marika returned to Latvia confident that such a parade could enjoy similar success in her native country. Employing the help of a group of like-minded blonde friends, Gerdete was soon beginning to see her dreams for the parade coming to fruition.
The parade has rapidly expanded, with the 2010 edition attracting approximately 800 participants and many more glazy-eyed spectators. This year the parade, which will be held on May 28, is expected to attract even more participants from even further abroad with the official event Web site, www.goblonde.lv reporting that organizers are hoping for more than 2,000 participants. Proof of just how far the influence of the parade stretches is best exemplified by the fact that the first people to confirm their participation in the parade for 2011 were a group from New Zealand.
Organizer of the New Zealand group Clint Heine participated in the 2010 edition and could not wait to get back to Riga this year. “Last year the festival was amazing for me! I came not expecting what would happen and found myself asked to join the parade of the blondes! What I loved about my trip was the friendliness of Latvians,” said Heine, talking to TBT earlier this week, before adding, “I had always wanted to visit the Baltics, but this was the thing that made my mind up for me. I might have come to Riga, but I doubt I would have come twice.”
In the face of the success of the parade, the organizing committee – Go Blonde – which consists of Gerdete and a group of fellow Latvian blondes has now been able to hold a number of other successful events in addition to the parade, with all proceeds going to assisting Latvian children with special needs, and their families. Last year a large portion of the money gained from the parade went to constructing Riga’s first playground, with facilities for special needs’ children. This year it is hoped that more playgrounds can be constructed throughout Riga and wider Latvia.
Despite the official dress code for the parade being ‘shining pink’ and the majority of the participants in previous editions of course being blonde females, the parade aims not to discriminate by also encouraging the participation of non-blondes and males, who can show their support for their female peers by wearing pink.
Those participating in the Blonde Parade are also breaking down the traditional stereotypes of blonde females. “The question – about education and our seriousness – we are for this - we are all serious women, educated and industrious, with a great sense of responsibility and also life experience,” one of the event organizers and participants, Dace Denava, told TBT.
This year the parade will move away from the Old Town and move to 11 Novembra Krastmala, the main road that runs adjacent to the Daugava River and the Old Town. The movement of the festival allows for more events to be included on the day, including the Formula 2 Riga Grand Prix which will take place on the Daugava at 7 p.m. The parade itself will begin at 6.30 p.m. with participants assembling half an hour before the parade. Following the Formula 2 Grand Prix there will be a competition for Marilyn Monroe look-alikes on the event’s main stage, followed by a concert and fashion show. The day’s activities will conclude with the ‘Pink Party’ at Kino Klubs at 10 p.m.
For the full interview with one of the organizers Dace Denava see next week’s edition of TBT. For more information about the parade go to www.goblonde.lv.