Labor Day Parade Unites Community, Celebrates Volunteers
Blaring sirens and flashing lights led the way as Newtown’s 58th Labor Day Parade followed a pack of police motorcycles along Main Street Monday morning, September 2. First in line among the handful of motorcycles were Newtown’s own Motorcycle Officers Lenny Penna and Tim Shoen.
In step right behind the bikes was Newtown Police Department’s Honor Guard.
The theme of the 2019 parade was “Volunteers Keeping Our Community Strong,” and appropriately, Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Chief Bill Halstead was honored as this year’s grand marshal.
Marching bands, dancers, martial artists, and fire companies joined countless other local volunteers, civic organizations, community members, political groups, Scouts, and businesses as they moved along the route waving to spectators — some who staked out prime viewing spots with rows of chairs placed hours before the procession began.
Three-month-old puppy Grace squirmed at the noise of engines and drums near the Grand Stand on Queen Street while owner Lisa Snyder of Sandy Hook tried to soothe her pet. “It’s her first parade,” she explained.
Near the beginning of the first unit, Grand Marshal Halstead sat high in the back of a vintage convertible along with his wife, Debbie Aurelia Halstead, and grandchildren Ryan Halstead and Emma Guilfoil. The longtime chief of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department was just one of many representatives of Newtown’s emergency service organizations taking part on Labor Day.
With the forecast of possible rain that morning, a few umbrellas opened along the parade route winding down Glover Avenue and onto Queen Street. Although there were a few minutes of sprinkles, the rain held off until the end of this year’s march — which organizers said took two hours and 24 minutes to wind from the War Memorial at the head of Main Street to the reviewing stand on Queen Street.
Children along the route scrambled for candy that many participants tossed from their floats. Hoping to ward off toothaches, toothbrushes and small tubes of toothpaste were also tossed from the Dental Associates float, scattering along the ground among the many sweets.
Dr Joshua Baum’s office mascot, a large tooth, danced from the back of his float.
Thanks, First Responders
As skies around the parade darkened around noon, Monica Kwarcinski of Newtown opened her big red umbrella. She saw Boy Scout Pack 470 roll by with a float and logo: “Pack 470 Thanks Our First Responders.”
Troop 70 Scouts carried a huge American flag from start to finish, folding it into a triangular package after they passed by the judges on Queen Street.
Riding proudly with a bouquet was Legend & Pioneer Award winner Beryl Harrison. The award annually goes to a longstanding community member whose services go “above and beyond,” according to a parade write-up. Riding with her in a classic car was her son, Trent Harrison, a teacher at Newtown High School.
As participants made their way to the end of the parade, they passed by judges Shannon Will, Janet Knapp, Jennifer Chaudhary, Alex Rankin, Charlie Rankin, and Kris Schwartz.
Also marching were title sponsor Newtown Savings Bank representatives; platinum sponsor members from Ingersoll Auto; and three additional platinum sponsors, Teamster Local 1150, Maplewood at Newtown, and Town Square Media. With a float of their own in the parade was Gold Sponsor Rotary Club of Newtown.
It was a very special birthday for First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, who marched along with his wife, Meri, and children, Emmy and Ben. At the flagpole, emcee and Newtown Bee Associate Editor John Voket led the crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to the local elected leader, while emcee Bill Brimmer did the same at the reviewing stand on Queen Street.
Surrounded by other political dignitaries, Governor Ned Lamont, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, State Treasurer Shawn Wooden, US Senator Richard Blumenthal, US Congresswoman Johanna Hayes, and State Senator Tony Hwang joined in as well.
Shriners And Elvis
Passing by the hundreds of spectators were VFW Post 308 members, auxiliary members, and its color guard; the Mattatuck Fife & Drum Band; all of Newtown’s fire companies; dance academies; dog trainers; garden clubs; local churches; and more.
High school students representing various teams or groups sold bottled water to help hydrate attendees on what is traditionally a hot day.
Posted at various points throughout the parade route were collection boxes for donations to the FAITH food pantry (Food Assistance Immediate Temporary Help), located at 46 Church Hill Road behind St Rose church.
Not to be forgotten, Elvis (Robert James McArthur) gyrated and sang to the crowd from the back of a flat bed making its way down the street. Pyramid Shriners ran their cars in circles while dance troops, dentists, martial artists, clowns, athletic organizations, history groups, environmental groups, and more walked the route, entertaining residents for several hours on Monday.
Bee staffers Andrew Gorosko, Kendra Bobowick, and Associate Editors Shannon Will and John Voket contributed photography from the 2019 parade.