Is there any town that loves its parade more than Newtown? If the thousands of people who turn out to celebrate the end of summer each year are any indication, the answer is “No,” and Parade Committee members are prepared to present another spectacular affair for 2014.
Preparations for the 53rd Annual Labor Day Parade are right on schedule for the event, said Parade Committee President Beth Caldwell and fellow organizer Robin Buchanan.
“We’re thrilled to be presenting it again,” said Ms Buchanan.
“We’re hoping for a perfect day,” said Ms Buchanan, but rain or shine, the parade will step off at the head of Main Street at 10 am, Monday, September 1. Making its way down the length of Main Street, onto Glover Avenue, and finishing up in front of the main reviewing stand and judges on Queen Street, the parade will once more be an eclectic mix of the fanciful, extraordinary, elegant, and humorous.
“The National Flag will join us again this year,” Ms Caldwell said, and the enormous Stars and Stripes will be carried, unfurled, the whole parade route. “We will need at least 50 volunteers of all ages to help. Don’t be shy,” she urged. “When you see that flag near the monument, come running,” she said. The flag will be unfurled at approximately 9:45 am.
Four buses will transport parade participants from the Hawley School parking lot on Church Hill Road to the parade start. Each bus will be staffed with interns from Women Involved in Newtown, to welcome participants and answer any questions. From 7:30 am to about 9:45 am, Wendover Road from its Church Hill Road intersection to the top of Schoolhouse Road will become one way only, to allow for more efficient movement of the buses, said Ms Caldwell. Other roads near the parade route will close shortly before the start of the parade, as well. Parade viewers are asked to park behind Newtown Mid-dle School on Queen Street when possible.
There is no disadvantage to be parked there, the organizers emphasized. Located on the front lawn of the middle school, the Newtown Labor Day Parade Fair offers a chance to pick up a snack or drink from a variety of food vendors, from 9 am to 1 pm. “Or you might find something special,” Ms Caldwell said, at one of the private tag sales there.
With a rat-a-tat-tat of drums, the trill of flutes, and the flash of brass, the Newtown High School Marching Band will herald the start of the parade, followed by this year’s grand marshal, gardening author and poet Sydney Eddison, representing the 2014 parade theme, “Write On, Newtown!”
Ms Eddison should not be surprised when her convertible passes Edmond Town Hall, and her very own fan club sends up a rousing cheer.
“The Garden Club of Newtown has always been a huge fan of Sydney Eddison, and vice versa,” said Ms Caldwell, “so there will be a big group there to cheer her.”
All five of the town’s fire companies, along with dancers, musicians, horses, dogs, Shriners, floats, and more will be announced as they pass each of three reviewing stands along the parade route.
New Flagpole Emcee
The first stand is at the flagpole, with emcees John Voket and Susan Lang giving the shout-out to marchers.
“It’s a pleasure to have Susan Lang on board with us this year,” Ms Caldwell said. “She’s a teacher at Newtown Middle School, an actress, a musician — and a Newtowner,” she said. Ms Lang replaces John Klopfenstein, who has been a fixture at the flagpole reviewing stand for a dozen years, said Ms Caldwell, as well as having served as the “unofficial parade photographer.” Mr Klopfenstein’s years of support are not forgotten, though. The parade committee has honored him with the 2014 Legends and Pioneers Award. That award is specific to a person or organization that, over the years, “has been a piece of the fabric of this parade,” she said.
New this year, said Ms Buchanan, is a reviewing stand on Glover Avenue. Paradegoers will notice the presence of radio stations i95 and 105.5 — Gold Sponsors of the parade — in pop-up tents along the parade route, and Town Square Media personalities from those stations will lend their voices to announcing parade participants at the Glover Avenue stand, she said.
At the final main reviewing stand, located on Queen Street, longtime emcees Mary Ann Murtha and Mike Giarratano will give their take on the parade entries.
Judges this year are all from C.H. Booth Library. Staff members Janice Bernard, Beryl Harrison, Anne Mastrioianni, Kim Weber, and Candice Woods will join new C.H. Booth Library Director Brenda McKinley in selecting the best of the best in the 2014 parade.
“It’s a great chance to say thanks to our library,” Ms Caldwell said.
Old Friends Returning
The Parade Committee is always happy to welcome back parade favorites such as the Shriners’ mini cars and the Giant Shriner, and the Wells Fargo horse-drawn carriage, and are delighted that the Sons of Portugal dancers are among those returning, said the parade organizers. Barring high winds or rain, spectators should look to the skies for the vintage B-17 aircraft soaring above the parade route.
There is always something new sandwiched between the bands and the finale of antique tractors. Nunnawauk Meadows and Masonicare at Newtown will be represented this year, as will Newtown Country Club, Ms Buchanan said.
“It’s kind of neat, too, that our first official application this year was from the Newtown Soccer Club, which is celebrating 30 years of girls’ soccer in Newtown this year,” she said. “It’s a close-knit group made up of some of the original and early members of the club,” Ms Buchanan said.
She will be riding in a convertible, not dancing, but parade organizers are 99 percent sure that a special guest in this year’s parade will be smiling. Newtown’s own “dancing traffic cop,” Kat Holick, is the committee’s guest of honor and they are tickled to have her on the roster.
Have a strong handshake ready and babies ready to be kissed, because state and local politicians will populate the Labor Day Parade.
“We expect plenty of politicians this year, it being an election year,” Ms Caldwell said. Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman are expected, along with many others running for office.
As always, spectators will enjoy a plethora of creative floats from many clubs and organizations.
Thanks To Supporters
There are many people and organizations to thank for continued support of the Labor Day Parade, said Ms Caldwell.
“We thank our Title Sponsor, Newtown Savings Bank. They are such a huge part of this parade, not only because of the financial support, but on the day of the parade a whole flock of volunteers from NSB come out to help set up the reviewing stands and help. We want to thank all of the volunteers, the Newtown Police Department, and the Town of Newtown for the terrific support,” she said. Not to be overlooked is the small but loyal members of the Parade Committee, she said. “We’re especially happy to have new members Chris Sullivan, Melissa Gordon, and Andy Gallagher on the committee,” Ms Caldwell said.
Ms Caldwell said that the Teamsters Local 1150 and Sikorsky Aircraft are a new, combined Platinum Sponsor this year, and the committee is grateful for the support. Other sponsors this year are Ingersoll Auto of Danbury and Maplewood at Newtown, at the Platinum level; and event sponsors Caraluzzi’s, Leahy’s, the law firm of Nanavaty, Nanavaty and Davenport, and Atherton Associates.
The committee sends a gentle reminder that it is expected that people rise, remove hats, and show respect when the American flag passes by.
The excitement is rising as each day draws closer to September 1, they said. But there is always the thrill of the unknown lurking in the background.
“You know what they say about well laid plans … this parade always takes on a life of its own,” laughed Ms Caldwell. “We are flexible, though, and know it will be a great day,” she said.
“It’s a time-honored tradition,” added Ms Buchanan. “We try to keep it lighthearted, and it’s just a wonderful day.”
For a complete list of Newtown authors and illustrators celebrated by this year’s theme, or to donate to the Labor Day Parade, visit www.newtownctlabordayparade.org.