Even if you have only been to the Solstice Parade once, chances are good you have seen Marc McGinnes on stilts. He’s a tall fellow — well over eight feet — with white hair and a white beard, and he’s very friendly. McGinnes, who has been an ardent stilt walker since the mid-1970s, has only missed one parade, in 2015. If the Solstice Parade is a stilt Super Bowl, then McGinnes is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, an MVP and player/coach of unsurpassed achievement and influence.
In Rise Up: A Stilter’s Adventures in Higher Consciousness (Mercury Press International), McGinnes dishes on every aspect of the stilting experience. He seasons his account with generous lashings of humor that range from the inevitable puns on “getting high” to real-life practical jokes such as showing up in a courtroom or the chancellor’s office at UCSB on stilts. Whenever and wherever he chooses to rise up, McGinnes stays focused on the power of stilting to delight both participants and witnesses.
There’s plenty of useful information for would-be stilters here, tucked in among the stories of McGinnes’s personal adventures. The proper size, necessary adjustment, and even the relative prices of different kinds of stilts are reviewed with an eye to converting readers to the high life. Rise Up offers instruction, too — knowing how to fall being lesson number one. (Hint: forward is better than back.)
Although the book touches on non-festive uses of the stilts, the soul of stilting, at least for McGinnes, remains resolutely social, and that’s why the Solstice Parade and its Alameda Park after-party are so central to his experience. Causing gentle astonishment, spreading genuine affection, and creating indelible memories are what this way of getting high is all about.