Westport’s annual July 4 parade was on the move. You could hear the deep resonant blare of fire truck sirens as the parade approached Westport Central Village from Hix Bridge Road. Then you could hear them fade in the distance as the parade headed for Westport High School.
The stretch from Beech Grove Cemetery to Village Pizza was lined with residents in camp chairs. Festive was the operative word of the day.
Every home along the rest of the route became a viewing stand, lawns filled with friends and neighbors and lots of red, white, and blue flags and balloons.
Want to get a feel for what a small New England town is all about? Watch its parades. Everyone in this rural town in southeast Massachusetts knows someone in the parade. Pockets of spectators sound off with cheers every time they see someone they recognize.
The sun is shining, not a cloud in the robin’s egg blue sky, and cares of the day seem to have evaporated as completely as the morning dew. This is a town giving itself a big hug while celebrating the birthday of its nation.
“Stay behind the white line!” parents warn their kids. Lollipops and penny candy will rain from floats, fire trucks, even tractors. The most experienced kids bring bags to collect their booty. Lord knows how long it will last once they get home.
Due to the length of the 3 ½ mile route down Main Road, everyone rides – drawn along by trucks and tractors, interspersed with antique cars, convertibles, scooters, even motorized lawn mowers. And of course, shiny red fire engines from Westport and Dartmouth.
Creatively designed floats sponsored by local businesses and organizations from landscapers to bakeries haul groups ranging from Boy and Girl Scout troops, to a contingent of veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, to health clubs, soccer leagues, Babe Ruth teams, and Westport County Fair participants among others.
There will be prizes for the best floats and antique cars but I’ll bet the farm that no one will be disappointed. Just to be in the limelight for a few hours is a prize of its own.
There are similar parades in small towns across this land. The national mood may be uncertain, contentious, and anxious. But for the past two hours, this little town took a deep cleansing breath and celebrated civic connection that spanned generations and political affiliation. For this moment in time, I say God bless America.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr. Text published as Letter to the Editor July 15, 2016