Mike Franco for State Senate 2014! Message Board › Barbara Bernard - E. L. 4th of July Parade
East Longmeadow Fourth of July parade celebrates American pride
Almost everyone runs the risk of being tarred and feathered if they say something is their favorite. So, I dare not start today’s column by saying I think the East Longmeadow Fourth of July parade is the best.
I just really want you to know how special this parade is.
It’s been held for over 100 years, and I first learned about it when I moved to the Pioneer Valley in 1950. I’ve attended several of East Longmeadow’s parades over the years and also have been to other cities and towns events to mark Independence Day.
My father started me really celebrating this holiday because he was an immigrant who loved America. Sometimes I think he loved this country more than someone who was born here because he always regarded the fight for his new country’s freedom as sacred.
And that is, of course, what East Longmeadow’s fabulous parade is all about. It’s a salute and a remembrance marking this incredible freedom we have as Americans. No matter how we may complain about our government being “Big Brother,” we have the liberty to complain and that is a pretty nifty privilege.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my fellow Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade committee friend, Mike Gordon, for putting me in touch with Carl Ohlin, chairman of the East Longmeadow Fourth of July Parade Committee. From my years with the St. Patrick’s parade group, I know a great parade needs a strong and sensible leader and a great committee who work well together. East Longmeadow sure has it all!
This year’s parade theme is “American Pride.” It will step off from East Longmeadow High School at 9:30 a.m. There will be about 1,500 participants and 125 separate entrants. It’s a great parade to watch. Mark your calendars, and don’t miss it.
In the early days of the East Longmeadow Fourth of July parade, the celebration included day-long activities, two parades, one for adults and the other for children, athletic events, horse-drawn wagon rides, family picnics and fireworks at the end of the day. Sometime during the mid-1960s, there was a decline in activities and some people in town feared this wonderful tradition for celebrating America’s independence was in danger of fading away. At the time, East Longmeadow’s Recreation Department asked Joe Scanlon and Marshal Hanson if they would be willing to perk up this tradition.
The department could not have asked more energetic and capable men. They began organizing an enthusiastic committee, enlisted help from the Lions Club, the Rotary Club and the East Longmeadow Chamber of Commerce. On a rotating basis, a member of these organizations would work with the parade committee for two years to “learn the ropes” and then be prepared to lead the parade organization. Every year, the parade got bigger and better and the whole process seemed to energize an entire community.
In early 1990, Joe, Marshal and a few of the parade committee’s stalwart members felt it was time to move one and “pass the torch” to a new group. Volunteers came forward, and a committee was formed with a chairman who delegated responsibility for various aspects of the parade all through the year until parade day.
Today’s committee with four East Longmeadow residents and seven from neighboring communities who have volunteered their help for years. Many more volunteers serve as marshals on parade day and organize the logistic aspects of the parade.
The parade route begins at the high school and travels to Maple Street through the center of town onto North Main Street to Mapleshade Avenue to Elm Street and over Elm to Hanward Hill where it will disperse.
The list of participants is so long and so wonderful, I feel guilty mentioning just a few, but, as always, space limits my enthusiasm. You will be able to see that incredible Springfield Kiltie Band and the remarkable band of the East Longmeadow High School. There will be the ever-popular Spirit of America marching band, and, if you like drum and bugle corps, just wait until you hear the Excelsior Drum and Bugle Band.
As you watch East Longmeadow’s Fourth of July parade this year, I hope you will pause to remember and embrace this parade’s theme of “American Pride.” As we see events unfolding around the world each day, it’s a good time to emphasize what “American Pride” means to all of us.
Barbara C. Bernard, of Holyoke, is a columnist for The Republican.