Unicorns crawl through Beacon in tribute to king
Drivers honked, phones clicked and a rousing cheer arose when the procession of pink unicorns passed the farmers market on Main Street in Beacon on Sunday (Nov. 12).
The promenade paid homage to David Shelly, 66, Beacon’s own pink unicorn guy, aka the Flower Guy, the Free Hugs Guy and the Ice Cream Guy.
Shelly began donning the costume nearly three years ago to spread cheer and became a fixture at the weekly flea market, the weekly farmers market and all of Beacon’s parades and events. He has even visited bars and restaurants.
He gave away coupons for free ice cream or distributed roses. Whether in costume or not, he gave hugs. He often hangs out at the Marion Royael Gallery, where he creates dance circles on the sidewalk and goads passersby to show off their moves. Shelly denies accusations of dancing in his underwear.
But a month ago, he received a grim diagnosis: inoperable brain cancer. His friends, family and acquaintances held the gathering of the unicorns to honor all that he has done for the city, including his under-the-radar activities.
“Not a lot of people know this, but he is very supportive of the local music community,” said Ryan Dunn. “He’s always sponsoring and supporting events, but in a quiet way.”
Guitarist Tony DePaolo calls Shelly “the most selfless person I’ve ever met. He does good things for people and expects nothing in return.”
The impromptu unicorn crawl, with children in tow, attracted dozens of people and lots of attention. The organizers included Marko Guzijan at Hudson Valley Food Hall and Chris Cimino, owner of the Last Outpost Store.
With help from Brooklyn Press in Newburgh, they printed and sold T-shirts to raise money for Shelly’s family. Other participants, including Happy Valley Arcade, Denning’s Point Distillery and Meyer’s Olde Dutch served as stopping points and donated a share of the day’s proceeds.
“Dave is really a performance artist,” said Guzijan. “He helps keep Beacon weird.”
By coincidence, Guzijan’s beer distributer overhead a conversation and donated four cases of Unicorn IPA. Guzijan gave it away but gladly accepted donations.
During the procession, Shelly began skipping and singing “unicorn” to the chorus of “Jingle Bells.” For someone with terminal cancer, he is rather upbeat. His memorial service is already planned and, of course, he wants people to “laugh, dance, talk and become friends with each other.”
Shelly spoke about his desire to live every minute to the fullest, but his main goal is to leave a legacy, the Unicorn Foundation, which would function like a community bank and give away up to $300 to people facing small-scale financial pinches. “If they pay it back, great,” he said. “If they don’t, that’s fine.”
Standing at the cash register in the Last Outpost, he shared the story of his costume and his diagnosis, speaking in an earnest, blunt style devoid of complaint or self-pity. If anything, he was complacent.
“You can’t cheat death; this was coming sooner or later,” he said.
For now, he is content to enjoy the company of his wife, Jill Quaglino, and his two daughters and six grandchildren.
“The unicorn thing just evolved as I saw that it made kids smile and adults laugh,” he said. “Beacon is a little community with a lot of joy. Even the tourists feel it. We have to care for each other; it’s not rocket science. It really is true that what you put out there is what you get in return.”