Duckler: Kermit the Frog plus the American Legion equals an annual hometown tradition

  • Roger Menard, 82, gets ready for the downtown parade from Valley Street in Allenstown on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Boscawen Old Home Day parade works its way down Route 3 on Saturday morning. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Roger Menard, 82, is helped to his Kermit perch atop a turtle shell as he prepares for the Old Home Day parade through Allenstown on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Kinsley Foss, 5, from Pembroke smiles and cheers from the Dance Inspirations float in Allenstown. Foss has been at the dance studio since she was 2 years old. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Paul Dodge of American Legion Post 31 looks around before the beginning of the Boscawen Old Home Day parade on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Published: 8/24/2019 3:51:28 PM

“Is it time?” the frog asked on a glorious Saturday morning in Allenstown.

“I’m not scared,” the frog continued. “No, just nervous.”

Sesame Street began its TV-run in 1969, so it stands to reason that one of the show’s biggest stars, Kermit the Frog, is a bit slower these days, a tad more cautious when climbing into his float as the main attraction in the Pembroke and Allenstown Old Home Day Parade.

Yes, there’s a little less height in his hops, and he needed help to climb aboard the turtle shell of another famous TV character, Bill Slowsky Jr. But never, ever question 82-year-old Roger Menard’s humor or heart or loyalty to the Pembroke region.

He’s still dressing up for the parade, still riding on a float, waving, exploding with his well-known hearty laugh, making sure friends and family and neighbors wear smiles while he wears a frog costume.

Or, in years past, a King Kong suit. He’s also been Neptune of Little Mermaid fame, a farmer sitting on a bale of hay, a Canadian goose, Batman.

Obviously, Menard loves the Suncook Village, his own private little lillypad. That’s why he does this, year after year.

Go ahead, he says to his friends. Poke fun at the fact that on this day, he has a Kermit-faced hood on his head, ping-pong balls for eyes and a court jester-like yellow collar. None of that matters. Not when you mean so much to so many.

“They love to yell at me and razz me,” Kermit told me shortly before moving onto Slowsky’s back, with a little help from his friends. “There’s a group in Pembroke just waiting to laugh at me. I used to umpire their softball games. I’m sure they’ll remember that when I get there. They’ll get their revenge.”

An Old Home Day Parade was held in Boscawen as well. It’s an annual, prideful thing, a final celebration when the sun begins to set earlier and the nights and mornings start to feel chillier. The start of school is around the corner, too. This is summer’s last hurrah.

These events have themes. The one in the Pembroke region was “Go Green.” Thus, beyond promoting recycling and conservation, Kermit was invited.

The theme in Boscawen connected to the 100th anniversary nationally of the American Legion as a giving, selfless institution. That’s why it was so important for Peter Dodge to lead the charge in this effort.

A retired salesman and school-bus driver, he’s been a member of Boscaswen’s Post 31 for more than 40 years. He’s been the Post’s youth officer for more than a decade.

His float, on the back of flatbed truck, included members of the ladies’ auxiliary and posters attached to the side, a collage of causes Post 31 is involved with. Institutions like the Girl and Boy Scouts, the Youth Fishing Derby, the soup kitchens.

Dodge wants you to know about these goodwill gestures, like the $1,000 scholarships awarded each year to Merrimack Valley High School, and the school supplies Legion members boxed and gave to the school district.

“It’s all about Legion and the 100 years and community to service,” Dodge said. “Service to the community is a big thing.”

Dodge and his colleagues wore crisp white button-down shirts and ties. About 12 miles away, Menard wore green, aligning himself with the “Go Green” theme.

“Roger is our main attraction,” said Claudette Verville, a member of the Allenstown Historical Society. “We see how much we can do to poor Roger to see what he can take before he rolls his eyes.”

She came up with the Kermit and Slowsky idea. She saw Bill Slowsky Jr. on TV, trying to sell high-speed internet service while his turtle parents preferred snail mail and fax machines.

Cardboard and paint and a makeshift enclosure, looking like a mini phone booth, sat on Valley Street, its guest waiting in a beach chair, leaning on a cane, ready to hop aboard.

Helped by friends, he climbed up two ladder steps, moved over to the flatbed stage and gingerly took his seat. Once seated, the final portion of the cardboard shell was placed over the door.

Soon, he’d hear those softball players from his umpiring days. What would they yell? Frog face?

Menard was ready for them. In fact, he looked forward to it, adding that even his wife, Jo-Ann, would eventually get in on the act.

“I’ll hear about it from Jo later,” he said, smiling.

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