August 24, 2019

Record-setting parade for Independence Day

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Observer photo by Steve Mease - Ruth Painter, grand marshal of Williston’s Independence Day Parade, waves to spectators.

Liam Drake and his friends knew exactly what they wanted at the Independence Day parade: candy. Parked at a prime spot at the start of the parade, the boys carried plastic bags to fill with treats thrown from passing floats.

The boys waited as four national guardsmen strolled past to lead the parade, then watched the Town Band and grand marshal Ruth Painter roll through. By the time a police car passed, the kids were getting antsy; when the officer said hello to the boys, they asked if he had any candy.

The fire department passed next, showing off its new ambulance and other rescue vehicles. A stream of political candidates followed, and then came the classic cars, neighborhood floats, sports teams and local businesses — and candy. Lots of lots of candy.

Asked if the sugary treats were his favorite part of the parade, Liam quickly responded, “Yeah, probably.”

Hundreds of others turned out in the sunny weather on July 3 — Independence Day festivities in Williston took place a day early to avoid interfering with church services. Spectators had lined the parade route well before 10 a.m., stretching from east of Williston Federated Church to Old Stage Road to watch a record number of parade participants.

Observer photo by Greg Duggan - Sam Thurston (left), 12, dances as the Jazzercise troupe passes during the Independence Day parade.

“It’s the biggest parade we’ve ever had,” said Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan, noting that the parade had more than 70 participants.

“The election certainly helps. You get a lot of politicians,” Finnegan said.

Candidates for state and local offices walked in the parade, some of them with floats.

Parade judges Bob Bishop and Kristen Hankins watched the participants from a stand in front of Town Hall. First time judges, the pair said they were looking for the floats or groups with the most enthusiasm. Halfway through the parade, Hankins, a Recreation Committee member, said the youth sports teams were her early favorites. Bishop, a town employee, specified the All-Star Softball Team as the most enthusiastic to that point.

Observer photo by Steve Mease - Ken Stone peruses the mystery selections at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library book sale on Saturday.

Sure enough, when Finnegan announced the 2010 Parade Winners on the village green later in the day, the softball team took the prize for best community organization (full list of winners on page 15).

Once the parade finished, spectators wandered to the green for food, music and games. Shortly after noon, the village was filled with people meandering through the farmers’ market or lounging on the grass, picnicking and listening to the town chorus.

A crowd began to gather behind Dorothy Alling Memorial Library a little before 1 p.m. as children and parents anticipated the annual frog jumping contest. Several groups of kids had already splashed around in nearby wetlands looking for frogs that could compete. Others, including Shayla and Briana Lawrence, brought frogs they had caught earlier. The sisters came pulling a wagon that held an aquarium, in which sat a massive bullfrog and a smaller frog, going by the names Salt and Pepper, respectively.

Observer photo by Marianne Apfelbaum - Williston Community Food Shelf volunteers, including treasurer Jeanne Jensen (center), march in the Independence Day Parade to raise awareness about the food shelf and to solicit donations for the local nonprofit.

Shayla, 8, said she caught Salt two months earlier in a pond on Tower Lane, and had been feeding it crickets and worms ever since. She planned to release the amphibian after the jumping contest.

Warmth and sun accompanied the day’s events, though ominous weather had threatened to hamper the start of the town’s Independence Day celebrations, with rain pouring from dark skies for much of Thursday. But shortly before the bike races kicked off three days of July Fourth festivities, the skies cleared and sun beamed down from the sky.

The celebrations continued Friday evening with the library book sale, the Firecracker 5K Fun Run, the Town Band Concert and the Ice Cream Social.

Once again a waste free event — meaning ice cream came in compostable bowls — hosted by the Williston Historical Society and Williston Green Initiatives, the Ice Cream Social brought in more than $1,300. Historical Society President Terry Macaig said that after expenses, the event probably garnered $500 to $600 for the Williston Community Food Shelf. Two dollars bought scoops of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, as well as generous toppings. Bob Bradish stood at the end of one of two lines, pouring hot fudge and strawberries onto ice cream.

“It’s just fun to do. You see a lot of people you know from around town,” he said.

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