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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

With Puppets And A Parade, Burlington Celebrates John Dewey

Sam Gale Rosen
Artist and John Dewey enthusiast Frank Gonzalez sits beside the puppet he created in John Dewey's likeliness. Gonzalez is the organizer of Dewey Day, an annual celebration of philosopher John Dewey's birthday.

On Saturday, Burlington's Fletcher Free Library held its annual Dewey Day Parade, in which a ten-foot puppet of Dewey is marched up and down Church Street.

VPR's Sam Gale Rosen caught up with Dewey Day organizer Frank Gonzalez — an artist and educator who also made the Dewey puppet out of papier-mâché and rolled-up newspaper tubes. Before the parade, Gonzalez worked with local kids on crafting paper masks in the library's local history room.

Gonzalez is a big John Dewey enthusiast. He traces his admiration of the man to his time in a California elementary school program inspired by Dewey's teachings.

"He brought the idea that we are all uniquely born, and that education should be to develop that uniqueness," says Gonzalez. "This way, we expect the differences from each other. And we learn from each other."

After discovering that John Dewey was from Burlington, Gonzalez began poring over local information about the scholar.

"I went to where he was born, began to read his works, and I thought, 'I owe you, John Dewey.' So I thought we should do a parade," says Gonzalez.

Gonzalez went to the Burlington Town Council to defend the legacy left by John Dewey, and to clear up any confusion. "Even today, you mention the name Dewey and people say, 'Oh yeah, the Decimal Dewey.' Well, he also left a legacy, but that's Melvil Dewey," says Gonzalez.

"I'm going to keep beating the drum, because so many people still don't know the important of his legacy," says Gonzalez.

Gonzalez's passion for art blended with his love of John Dewey in the creation of a puppet in the scholar's likeliness. Meant to be worn on the shoulders, the Dewey puppet is constructed from rolled up newspapers and papier-mâché. Gonzalez learned this design style during his years working as an architecture professor in Mexico after World War II.

"We have to beat the drum, and help people understand that they are unique and have creative juices inside that they can allow to be free," says Gonzalez.

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