Cheryl Blackman On Parade
It was overcast and the streets were still wet from an earlier storm, but nothing could dampen the enthusiasm for an entire town coming together to celebrate a local icon.
The diverse and exuberant crowd stood waiting along Rehoboth Avenue for a red Jeep, decked out in patriotic colors, chauffeuring Rehoboth’s own Cheryl Blackman to meet and greet her adoring and thankful friends.
Cheryl, a happy institution in Rehoboth for a large portion of her 53 years is special to the community. She spent time working at local restaurants and roller skating to deliver food to patrons.
Thanks to her 4’6’” stature and athleticism, part of her roller skating resume included a stint doubling for adored Muppet Miss Piggy in the Muppet’s Take Manhattan movie. Following her Hollywood days, she made a career of helping non-profits in Sussex County sell raffle tickets. The money she raised for charity is legendary, the friends she made along the with way number in the thousands.
Cheryl hawked those raffle tickets all over town, but we especially remember Cheryl hanging out late at night at our dance bars, selling her raffle tickets and winning the hearts of the gay community. And who hasn’t had Cheryl come up to us waving a wad of bills and excitedly telling us just how many raffle tickets she sold in one night.
But when shocking news arrived recently that Cheryl’s cancer had returned and she was at home being tended by hospice workers, several local entrepreneurs went into action. They spread the word that Cheryl wanted to see all her friends—and with so many friends to see—they decided a police-escorted spin around downtown Rehoboth was the only way to accomplish that goal.
So on Wednesday evening, July 13, under threatening skies, hundreds of people lined Rehoboth Avenue waiting for Cheryl’s visit.
Almost an hour before we had the pleasure of greeting Cheryl in front of the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center on Baltimore Avenue, we heard the shouts and cheers from blocks away. As we waited, the camaraderie on the CAMP steps, and all up and down the street, was a combination of excitement and some occasional somberness.
People waved and cheered, ran over to shake Cheryl’s hand, some jumped up and kissed her as she stood up in the Jeep, dressed in her signature red, white, and blue, grinning with her mile-wide signature smile and waving to all her friends.
Signs announced “We love you, Cheryl,” “Miss Piggy Strong!” “Yay, Cheryl!” and so many more.
Tourists asked “What’s happening?” and, after hearing a mini explanation, joined the throngs waving and cheering.
“Wow! This is amazing,” some visitors exclaimed.
“Yeah, this is the kind of town Rehoboth is,” shouted a local.
It took almost an hour for the parade to cover just a few blocks in our one-mile square town and to reach us on Baltimore Avenue. By that time it was starting to rain again, but nobody moved and nobody cared.
A waiter from Aqua ran out of the restaurant with a huge bouquet of red roses for Cheryl as the event ended with singer Karen Murdock serenading Cheryl with her favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
As the unprecedented event came to an end, rain-dampened friends stood their ground around Cheryl and with moist eyes joined in the serenade.
It was an insanely moving tribute and a fine example of the loving, diverse community of Rehoboth Beach. Cheryl Blackman, you are our heart.