For more than 50 years, townspeople have swarmed to the center of town to watch the Newtown Labor Day Parade. Entertaining, free, and educational at times, the floats, bands, horses, dogs, music and more work an end-of-summer magic on the people that line the streets, from the top of Main Street to the judging stand on Queen Street. It is a tradition that pulls the entire town together, erasing the divisions that make people exult in their Dodgingtown, Botsford, Sandy Hook, Hawleyville, or borough residencies. For a few hours, the first Monday in September every year, we are simply residents of Newtown.
The Labor Day Parade remains one of the few all-town celebrations left. While once Ram Pasture beckoned holiday revelers to gather about one large, communal Christmas Tree, the luminarias now seem to light the way to the outskirts of town, where other neighborhood Christmas trees are lit. Sandy Hook Village honors the holiday with a tree lighting and festivities. Hawleyville encourages its residents to stick close to home, with music and entertainment for a tree lighting in the Hawleyville Plaza off of Route 25.
Two parks provide recreational outlets for townspeople. There is crossover, of course. The new FunSpace II recently erected in Dickinson Park welcomes visitors from all over town, and the town’s one pool at Treadwell Park on Philo Curtis Road in Sandy Hook is not exclusively for residents of that area. Eichler’s Cove, off of Great Quarter Road near the Monroe line, opened following the demise of the Dickinson Park pool, and is meant for all of Newtown’s swimmers. But it is a trek across Newtown’s vast space to play in one park or the other.
Halloween on Main Street draws ghosts and goblins from every district in Newtown — but also from towns near and far, making it less a hometown activity than a regional frenzy for teenagers and children. Even ice cream has created a friendly segregation of the town. Do you frequent the iconic shop in the center of town or travel to the newer Route 302 option to indulge — or throw up your hands and go for gelato or frozen yogurt?
There is no division, though, when Labor Day comes around. There is one, and only one parade calling out to residents. Old and new friends from Sandy Hook, Botsford, Dodgingtown, and Hawleyville are welcomed onto porches, lawns, and curbsides lining the borough. All five fire companies strut their stuff, united in townwide recognition for the services they provide. And leading the march is the Newtown High School Marching Band, consisting of youthful musicians from every corner of the town.
The 2014 parade theme is “Write On, Newtown!” celebrating the many authors and illustrators who call Newtown home, with longtime resident and author Sydney Eddison serving as Grand Marshal. Ms Eddison, in a poem written specifically for the 2014 parade, notes, “The Newtown Labor Day Parade / Reminds us that we are / All in this together / Young and old, / People, Pets, and barnyard animals…”
This year’s theme, a play on words, is one that rings true for the parade that makes Newtown one: Right On, Newtown!