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My type of parade

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There’s nothing more patriotic than a parade on the Fourth of July.

For Rhode Islanders it’s the Bristol Parade and, more locally – say Warwick – it’s the short walk to Lippitt Park for the Riverview neighborhood, albeit it wasn’t on the 4th this year, and the traditional Warwick Neck parade that, when it was initiated by the Haronians, Riggs, Satmarys and Henriques and perpetuated by the Nixons, was without spectators as everyone was in the parade.

The flags, red, white and blue attire, the music all say USA. There’s usually more to be said, especially in those neighborhoods and small-town parades. It’s a coming together and a sharing of excitement and pride for this country between generations.

I have an affection for the Warwick Neck parade having covered it since nearly its beginning (maybe I was there for the first) and seeing people who make a point of returning year after year. Some as kids rode their bikes and lawn tractors in the parade and come from across the country to ensure their kids share the experience.

Bill Nixon makes a point of calling and reminding me of the parade. It’s not likely that I would forget, but then it’s always good to hear from Bill and know that, as has been the tradition, his and Madeline’s yard overlooking Greenwich Bay is where the parade ends; where the flag will be raised and where you can find shade and a cool slice of watermelon.

I missed this year’s parade, but attended the one in upstate New York in the village of Springfield Center. By Rhode Island standards, this is a tiny community. The main drag – a section of Route 80 – with Bill’s Garage that no longer sells gasoline but has a steady business of repairs, a few gift shops that cater to the Cooperstown crowd, the tiny post office and St. Mary’s Church make up the village center. And I can’t forget the fire station run by volunteers. That’s at the center of it all.

Yes, Springfield Center has a parade.

The route starts at a field at one end of the hamlet and ends up at the former grammar school, now community center, at the other. Even a slow walker can cover the distance in under 10 minutes. Given that one would imagine the entire parade would slip by in no time. But like the Warwick Neck parade and quite possibly what the Riverview could be, the Springfield Center parade has become a tradition. It grows bigger each year. It helps that there is a chicken fry at the end.

This is an American Gothic parade with polished farm tractors, volunteer fire companies showing off their latest apparatus alongside some antiques that keep running. Making up the line of march were organizations such as the animal rescue, Glimmerglass Opera and the Otsego Land Trust. The latter handed out pine tree saplings to spectators who five and six deep lined the route. Kids ran into the road to retrieve candy and beauty queens perched in the back of trucks, looking ahead, gave the queen’s wave. They came from towns throughout the county. There was a single fife and drums corps from Canton, which I believe is a regular at the Gaspee Days parade and a group of women, dressed as witches, waving wands and dancing. A banner on an accompanying vehicle urged people to “discover the joy of dance through the magic of music.”

Their presence evoked a ripple of laughter that encouraged the group to gyrate all the more. Riding in a convertible, a World War II vet was loudly applauded. An official looking lineup, surely with no one younger than 60, wearing black uniforms and white shoes stamped out cadence, ignoring the calls of friends and family. They took this very seriously.

This was a parade that knew why they were there and what they were celebrating. Indeed, there was a touch of commercialism with the names of supporting and participating businesses displayed. But I didn’t see elected officials, or those looking to be elected promoting themselves or their political party. There were no boos or jeers as I have seen in other parades from groups or individuals with differing views. This was a Warwick Neck parade on a county level were people come out to see each other and celebrate being American.

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