Apollo’s Chariot 2005

Deborah Hamm


             Members of the Mercury Masters running team, “Merms,” and friends made a rather unusual Broadway style

theatrical appearance at the NYRR Midnight Run. Dressed as Olympic gods and goddesses, they gathered at 72nd

and Fifth Avenue, where they formed a procession around Apollo, god of music and health, as astride his magnificent

chariot he pulled the sun of 2005 across the sky into the New Year. The majestic Apollo, Merm husband Colin Giles,

was bedecked in jeweled white satin with a sparkling shoulder drape, and he sported a silver Corinthian helmet with

a golden plume. He rode in a full-sized chariot of gleaming silver drawn by four stunning horses, two of which were

Merms Karen Giles and Ellen Liebman. The other two were Merm son Michael Bennett and his friend Mary

Heatwole. The four horse costumes were made of different-colored sparkling fabrics with manes that rose in

brilliant arcs, shimmering with glitter as they rose over the horses’ heads and cascaded down the backs of the

necks. All the horses wore jeweled masks decorated with Apollo’s sun. The chariot sun was made of round

gold panels, four feet in diameter, with sun rays radiating outwards; it was mounted on the back of the chariot

via a tall, camouflaged flagpole. Between these sparkling gold panels, recessed lighting displayed the numbers

“2005” through both sides of the sun as it rotated slowly in the wind like a huge weathervane. Two costumed

Chariot Guards, played by Merms Christa Hartmann and Deborah Hamm, monitored the progression of the chariot.


            Twelve original Olympians, including Apollo, were represented, all clothed in full-scale costumes with colors,

drapes, robes, symbols, and crowns that reflected their identities, powers, and rank. The powerful Zeus, played by

Merm husband Hillel Bennett, wore a regal glittering silver and white robe, a rhinestone crown, and boasted a silver

sequined thunderbolt.  Zeus’s wife Hera, played by Merm friend Aimee Baxt, wore a shining white gown with gold

trim and a sparkling gold crown covered with pearls. Poseidon, played by Jim Gregory, wore a gold crown

studded with dark blue jewels, a dark green iridescent robe with a shining gold drape, and he walked with a tall

glittering gold trident. Merm Diane Burnett, the gorgeous Persephone, wore a blue jeweled crown, an iridescent

blue gown, and a full length pale blue sheer cape patterned with soft shimmering vines that reflected the shadowy

underworld over which she rules with her husband Hades, played by Merm friend Angela Gonzales. Angela was

dressed from head to foot in silvery black. She also wore an intricately beaded black and silver belt, and a sheer

full-length black veil that only partially concealed her silver crown and her stunning, long blonde hair. Merm

Cassandra Burnett was cast as Artemis, twin sister to Apollo, and goddess of the hunt. Like Apollo, she was

costumed in white satin. But she was also armed with a large silver bow, and on her back she bore a silver quiver

full of silver arrows, gifts bestowed on her by Zeus. The beautiful Aphrodite, played by Merm friend Robin

Gregory wore an outfit made of long flowing pink and burgundy panels, and she was crowned with a laurel wreath. 

Merm Cindy Peterson, also crowned with laurel, played the role of Dionysus, god of wine. Her pale green gown

featured a sparkling wine-colored drape, anchored on the shoulder by clusters of green and purple grapes. Bonnie

Dietrich was recruited from the Millrose running team to play the role of Demeter, goddess of the harvest. Bonnie

wore an earth brown and dark green velvet gown with gold sparkles and carried a basket of fruit. Merm husband

Frank LaBar was cast as Ares, god of war. He wore an iridescent blood-red robe, a silver Corinthian helmet with

a blood-red plume, and carried a sword (a fortunate slight modification from the traditional blood-dipped spear).

Merm Rita LaBar had the honored role of Hermes, perhaps better known by his Roman name, Mercury.  Rita was

draped in Merm colors of purple and red, and wore Hermes’ signature gold winged helmet. She also carried a large

purple Mercury Masters banner bearing Mercury’s traditional helmet symbol, beaded on both sides in gold.

Topping off this magnificent parade was a huge white and gold banner celebrating New York City’s bid for the

2012 Olympics, with the Olympic torch shining on one side, and gold Olympic interlacing rings on the other side.


            In the famous Greek myth, Apollo, god of music and health, rides his chariot across the sky every night,

bringing the dawn’s new light to conquer the darkness of night. Apollo’s chariot ride is a celebration of the victory of

light over darkness, of knowledge over ignorance, and of health over illness. It expresses the eternal optimism of

cyclical opportunity and the joy of music in celebration of life’s offerings. In addition to Apollo’s hopeful message for

the New Year, this procession of the original Olympians also carried the hope of  New Yorkers to host the 2012

Olympics. It is only fitting that members of the Mercury Masters running team, symbolized by the messenger god,

took this opportunity to pay tribute to Apollo’s message and to New York City’s bid to be the home of the

 2012 Olympic Games. 


            The ensemble clearly struck a chord with the thousands of New Yorkers and others who had gathered for

the costume display and race. A much deserved prize for third place went to a “subway car” of children from

St. Ignatius School, and a group of guys dressed as “exercising/exorcising nuns” simulated a hilarious workout

and won a deserving second. But worries that the final “voting” – which was based on the volume of audience

cheers – might reveal that people had some problems in identifying with these ancient gods proved groundless,

as Apollo carried the night and won first prize.