They’re funky. They’re fearless. And they’ve just turned 45 years old.
They are Atlanta’s own Seed & Feed Marching Abominable, a zany community band of about 200 volunteer musicians, dancers and other assorted fun-lovers ranging in age from 13 to 90.
Founded by Kelly Morris, of the ‘70s-era Kelly’s Seed & Feed Theatre, the band marked its anniversary with its 45th appearance in the annual Inman Park Festival Parade. Inman Park resident Laurie Hawkins, 58, has been part of this scene for 24 years as one of the band’s “Despicables” — the dancers, banner-wavers and other assorted party animals.
“It’s the most beautiful day for our 45th anniversary in our beautifully diverse neighborhood,” Hawkins said at the April 27 parade. “We have everybody in our band, no exclusions, no discrimination.”
The corporate interior designer said her fellow band members keep her coming back. “It’s really hard to have friends when you’re old, and this is pure joy. It’s our tribe,” Hawkins said. “We raised our child in this band.”
Members’ children under the age of 18 are known as the band’s “Incorrigibles.”
A SAPPHIRE ANNIVERSARY
Marching Abominable alumni from around the country returned to Atlanta to commemorate the anniversary. Some joined the parade, and uniforms were not a problem. The band doesn’t wear them. Instead, they’re given a suggested costume theme based on each event or they can wear their tie-dye Seed & Feed T-shirts.
They dressed as superheroes for last year’s Dragon Con parade in Downtown Atlanta. For the Inman Park parade, their theme was sapphire, the gemstone for 45th anniversaries.
The band dazzled the crowd with deep blue clothing of every kind, accessorized with a crazy blur of sequins, feathers, wigs, hats, beads, fishnet stockings and butterfly wings. A couple of members marched with vinyl ’45s strapped to the sides of their heads.
They fit right into what’s billed as Atlanta’s “quirkiest” parade band with other parade favorites such as the Inman Park Precision Attaché Drill Team and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons.
The band is led by several alternating conductors, each called “Broom.” That’s a name dating back to the Marching Abominable’s first public appearance, led by “a high-stepping guy with a broom, who swept aside the crowd,” according to the group’s history.
The musicians have a repertoire ranging from Big Band standards such as Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” to more current tunes such as “Raise Your Glass” by Pink. And, of course, there’s lots of John Philip Sousa in their mix.
Trombone player Henry Slack, of Decatur, has been an Abominable since the band’s start. “We play Sousa the way other people play softball,” he said, “with the best of intentions.”
NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY
Though they wow crowds with their big brassy sound, it’s easy to join the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable. There are no auditions and no marching experience is necessary. The musicians range from beginners to professionals, said the group’s manager, “The Mouth,” aka Donna Weber.
“We’ve had jugglers and unicyclists and we have a violinist in the band who marches and carries an amp on her back,” said Weber, a 32-year-old bass drummer who works in the legal industry. “We are definitely a place where if someone wants to join, we want to be a home for them and find a thing for them to do.”
Weber is joined on the band’s five-member council by “Scribbles,” the secretary (Liz Weiler); “Bookie,” the booking manager (Patricia Pichardo); “Rostermeister,” the membership coordinator (Karen Parker); and “Scrooge,” the treasurer (Jane Monahan).
The nonprofit band plays for free for community and nonprofit-related events. Their paid private and corporate gigs cover their general operating costs.
PUTTING ON THE ‘BLITZ’
Hank Spiker, 68, of Decatur, joined the Marching Abominable during the days of its Seed & Feed Theatre performances. He played trumpet with the band for about 13 years and returns for its anniversaries.
“That group really became my family,” he said. “Once you’re a band member, you’re always a band member.”
The band still holds true to its street theater roots of Spiker’s day, including its “blitz” — popping up of out of nowhere and taking people by surprise. Most recently, the band blitzed the El Bandido Mex Mex Grill in Little Five Points during the restaurant’s Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Spiker loves those moments when people begin to think they hear a band and then suddenly they’re shocked that their ears aren’t deceiving them. “Just the surprise and the joy of that [the blitz],” he said. “Every performance is like that. It’s just a joy.”
‘I SHOWED HER!’
A tiny slip of a person decked out in blue butterflies, huge yellow peace symbol earrings and a belly dance skirt over a blue leotard, Angela Carrington, 71, swayed her way down the parade route.
The Inman Park afterschool art teacher is living out a dream from her youth as one of the Despicables for about the past 23 years. “I played clarinet in high school and college. I wanted to dance, but my mother was all about music,” she said. “So, I showed her!”
As a Despicable, “We wrangle people out of the way,” watch for potholes, “and we dance when we can,” Carrington said.
Another Despicable, former New York City dance teacher Ricki Abrams, is the band’s oldest member. “She just turned 90 and we got to play at her birthday party, which was so much fun,” Weber said.
Ronda Fox, 59, both a Despicable and a Broom, said the Marching Abominable is a great educational resource for the city. “It’s [a place] for developing musicians as well as a place where top-notch musicians can come to have fun,” she said.
The Brookhaven retiree’s family is one of several with three generations involved in the band. Her mother Avis Fox, 86, of Stone Mountain, is a Despicable who used to tap dance at band gigs with her late husband and still does an event or two each year. Ronda’s daughter Amalia Fox, 12, is a lifelong Incorrigible.
The band takes in new members any time and all the time, Weber said. “Whatever you want to put into it,” she said, “we’re happy to help you harness that energy.”
“The Mouth,” aka Donna Weber, manager of The Seed & Feed Marching Abominable, gets a band photo shoot organized at the Inman Park Festival Parade.
JOIN THE MARCHING ABOMINABLE!
The band’s regular season is from Labor Day to Memorial Day, but performances are scheduled throughout the year. There’s no mandate to attend each event.
Band practices are weekly on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at the Little Five Points Arts and Community Center, 1083 Austin Ave. N.E., Atlanta 30307. Visitors are welcome. Info at seedandfeed.org.
Here’s a spring/summer sampler of the band’s upcoming events. Times shown are the anticipated Marching Abominable performance times.
Saturday, June 15 — Wrecking Bar Brewpub’s 8th Anniversary Celebration. 2-3 p.m. 292 Moreland Ave. N.E., Atlanta 30307. Info: wreckingbarbrewpub.com.
Thursday, July 4 — Old Timers 4th of July Parade, 10-11 a.m., Downtown Blue Ridge, Ga. on East Main and West Main streets. Info: bestofblueridge.biz/old-timers-parade.
Saturday, Aug. 31 — Dragon Con Parade. 10 a.m. Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta. Info: facebook.com/groups/dragonconparade.