It will be impossible to make any wrong turns during the 28th annual Morris Plains Memorial Day Service and Parade on Saturday.
Just follow the Big Banana Car and you should be fine.
Tom Brown is bringing the rolling fruit mobile, which has starred on Good Morning America, all the way from Kalamazoo to star in what’s billed as Morris County’s largest Memorial Day parade.
“There’s no road rage around the Banana Car!” said Tom, who figures he has the most delicious hobby in the world.
The festivities begin at 9 am on May 24, 2014, with a service at Robert’s Garden, on the corner of Glenbrook Road and Mountain Way.
Members of the Morris Plains VFW Watnong Post 3401 and Denville American Legion Post 390 will lead the service, followed by comments from Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26th Dist.) of Morris Plains.
The parade rolls out at 9:30 am, with nearly 100 units. Fifteen bands include the Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni and a pair of first-time participants, the Orange High School Marching Tornadoes Band and the Bridgemen Drum and Bugle Corp from Bayonne.
Members of the Morris Plains Beautification Committee, who keep the borough tidy (no banana peels!), have been named Grand Marshals, along with Morris Plains Firefighter Don Geary, who rendered impressive volunteer service during Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.
Great as those marshals are, they will have one tough act to follow if the Big Banana is cruising ahead of them.
“I absolutely love it, because it makes people so happy,” said Tom, 55, who works in the sign business back in Michigan.
The Banana, which sits atop a Ford F-150 pickup chassis and gets about 12 mpg on the highway, was the brainchild of British ex-pat-turned-Michigander Steve Braithwaite, who also owns a sign company.
As legend has it, Steve spied a bowl of bananas inside a gas station, admired the most perfect banana, and vowed to make a car out of it.
Nearly three years and many trips to the junkyard later, he succeeded, at a cost of about $25,000.
For the last three summers Tom has handled most of the driving, logging 50,000 miles to public appearances across the U.S. and Canada in the four-seater.
“I couch-surf,” Tom said of his weekend sojourns.
A world tour may be next for Tom and Steve. They had better stick to the sunny equator–the Big Banana Car has a big open cockpit that can get pretty chilly.
Back roads are advisable, too, because the vortex from tractor trailers can mess with B.B.C. aerodynamics on the freeway, Tom said. The flip side of local travel is the omnipresent threat of fender-benders from gawking rubberneckers at intersections.
In Indiana, a kid on a moped rear-ended a truck while gaping at the Big Banana Car, Tom said. Fortunately, the youth was not seriously injured.
(We shudder to think of the traffic jams from the team’s next project, a motorized sub sandwich.)
Tom will put his road rage theory to the test in the Garden State.
“I’m sure Jersey drivers will embrace the Banana Car and it will all go well,” he said.
Motorists will be the least of Tom’s worries in Morris Plains, the Community of Caring. It’s the cavorting black bears, tree-snapping helicopters and rampaging Clydesdales–headline-makers from past Memorial Weekend parades–that he should beware.
He will have some protection.
According to parade Chairman Steve Welsh, three local Boy Scouts will ride with Tom in the procession. Afterward, a dozen winners of a local raffle are scheduled for spins in the Big Banana Car.
The parade route winds south on Mountain Way from the Glenbrook Road intersection, turning east on Rosedale Avenue.
Then, everyone jogs north along Speedwell Avenue, past the reviewing stand at the corner of Franklin Place, opposite the railroad station.
From there, the parade heads north on Littleton Road to Route 53 north, ending at VFW Watnong Post 3401 for a cookout and family fun.
Remember: If you get lost, just look for the rolling banana. You can’t miss it.