Spirits And Temperatures Were High At This Year’s Labor Day Parade
More than an hour before the Labor Day Parade began, floats and community organizations began to assemble at Art & Frame of Newtown and along the road heading toward the Main Street Historic District.
Early bird spectators angling for the best seats along the parade route also began arriving, mixing with residents, many of whom hosted social gatherings for friends and family in their front yards.
Up at the head of the parade, the sounds of bands warming up mixed with the sputtering sounds of tractor engines and greetings among friends.
Monsignor Robert Weiss, this year’s Grand Marshal, waited patiently at Art and Frame until it was time to head down Main Street in a vintage Stanley Steamer convertible, decorated with flags and roses, from which he waved and greeted attendees along the parade route. When asked what it felt like to be honored with this title Weiss replied, “I’m really proud to be asked to do this.”
“Number one, it’s a great farewell to the community,” he said, having announced his upcoming retirement from leading the St Rose of Lima parish. He continued, saying the honor of serving as Grand Marshal “is a great opportunity to recognize the works of the parish.”
Weiss wore a matching rose corsage to match those in the judges’ float, which was to be pulled behind him by a tractor through the parade route before stopping at their Queen Street reviewing stand.
“It’s the best way to see the parade,” said parade judge Anne Ragusa. “We really have the best seats in the house.”
Ragusa had prior experience as a judge and by Weiss’s appointment, reprised the role this year. She recalled the groups stopping and performing right in front of their area to be judged.
“We’ll try to be fair,” said Angelo Marini, a first time judge. He added, “just having that eagle-eye view” Ragusa referenced will be “cool.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal was among local leaders to gather at 77 Main Street before it was time to line up. “I haven’t missed it in about 30 years,” Blumenthal said about the parade. “It is a very powerful reminder of what a great community and state we have.”
Blumenthal added the parade is “a really inspiring and exuberant event,” and that he loves to see veterans, kids, and the community come together “in a colorful way.”
“I love this parade, I love Labor Day,” said Governor Ned Lamont, adding he loves that Newtown actually celebrates what the holiday means. “Everybody turns out, everybody comes.”
“This is like the best parade in the state,” Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz said, waiting on Main Street with fellow elected officials.
She added it is also important on Labor Day to remember the successes of the labor movement, including establishing minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, the ban of child labor, and making workplaces safer, among other accomplishments.
“It makes us stop and think what more can we do,” said Bysiewicz.
Connecticut Secretary of State Stephanie Thomas seemed to also consider the bigger picture of the holiday. She explained how her focus on civic engagement had her excited to participate.
“It really brings the community together,” said Thomas. “I think when you have that sense of community that’s when people really start showing up to vote and getting involved in other ways.”
State Treasurer Erick Russell said attending the Labor Day Parade every year is in some ways like coming back home for him, because his husband is from town and he gets to see family.
“I know it’s always very well-attended, and we have a great showing from people all across the state,” he added.
Whoops of sirens from police motorbikes with lights flashing set the parade in motion. It was clear it was going to be a very warm commute from the top of Main to its conclusion near the intersection of Queen Street and Church Hill Road.
And it was apparent that attendees were feeling the heat.
“It’s a great time to be out with family and friends — although it is a little hot this year,” said Newtown resident Ryan Zenga on this year’s parade. He and other attendees who spoke with The Newtown Bee cited the parade as a tradition and a family event in one way or another.
Family groups could be seen waving flags, sharing blankets, and scouting for candy being tossed from floats and marchers.
“I’ve been going to this parade for the past eight years with my grandson, and now I’ve started to bring my granddaughter,” said Maria Koloniaris. According to Koloniaris, she and her granddaughter’s favorite part of the parade are definitely the horses — all of them.
“There’s people in the parade that we know too, so that’s extra cool,” added Koloniaris, who luckily found one of the patches of shade at the event to set up her chair.
Sue and Michael Oprendek came from Trumbull to see the parade. Decked out in matching American flag shirts, they were able to locate and staked out another patch of shade along the route.
They agreed the bands, particularly the fife and drum sections, were their favorites. Sue added they enjoyed seeing “the five wonderful fire companies” represented in the lineup.
Of course, at the end of the spirited event, the judges picked their favorites too.
St Rose of Lima Church and School won “Best Float,” and the Runner-Up was FAITH Food Pantry.
The “Best Musical Entry” in the senior division was the Mattatuck Drum Band; Runner-Up was Connecticut Alumni Senior Drum and Bugle Corps.
Lathrop School of Dance and Newtown Center for Classical Ballet and Voice were both recognized for Best Musical Entry-Junior Division.
The “Best Non-Musical” group was Cub Scout Pack 270. Runner-Up was Newtown Youth Wrestling
The Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard was declared “Most Patriotic,” with The Tappan Zee Bridgemen! a close runner up.
The “Best School” award went to Dance Etc; Runner-Up was Porco’s Karate Academy.
The judges decided the “Best Fire Department” of the “wonderful companies” was Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue, with Dodgingtown Volunteer Fire as the Runner-Up.
“Best New Entry” went to Tappan Zee Bridge Men!; Runner-Up was Newtown Stage Company.
Newtown Cultural Arts was distinguished as having the “Most Fitting Parade Theme,” and Newtown Savings Bank was Runner-Up in this division.
Fiesta Del Norte was named “Most Colorful”; Runner-Up was CT TIARE Polynesian Dancers.
And the “Rooster Award” this year went to first time Labor Day Parade participants, Tactical Construction Services.
Reporter Noelle Veillette can be reached at email@example.com.