Independence Day serves as community reunion
BY JASON STARR
For weeks this spring, Gov. Phil Scott talked up the Fourth of July as the “return-to-normal” date in Vermont after 15 months of pandemic restrictions. But the vaccination of Vermonters went faster than expected, and Scott lifted the state’s public health emergency orders in June. Still, at least in Williston, this year’s Independence Day celebration felt like the first real community reunion since COVID-19 initially forced us apart early last year.
A much-anticipated and only slightly scaled back parade went off Saturday morning just before rain set in. Skies cleared later for the evening’s activities, including the Deb Beckett Memorial 5K race, an ice cream social hosted by the Williston Federated Church, a concert on the Village Green by the Williston Town Band and a fireworks display at Williston Community Park.
Friday’s Dorothy Alling Memorial Library book sale was the only rain cancellation. The Ice Cream Social and Town Band concert originally scheduled for Friday were both postponed one day.
“We always get love going down the parade route, but this year, it was just this outpouring,” said Lynn Blevins, a member of the Sue Pasco Memorial Williston Precision Lawn Chair March and Drill Team, always a memorable part of the parade. “It’s the comfort of seeing the familiar, from before the pandemic. I think we’re all having those experiences right now, like ‘this is how life used to be. These are the things that we enjoyed, and here they are again!’”
Parade starter Tony Lamb joked about a town ordinance that says it can’t rain on the Fourth of July parade. But after Friday’s book sale cancellation and other event postponements, spectators and parade participants kept a close eye on the low gray clouds as they lined Williston Road.
Led by Boy Scout Troop 692, the parade left Johnson Farm Saturday morning and proceeded toward waiting crowds. Kids scrambled for candy as it bounced along the asphalt at their feet. Fire engines, classic cars and flag-bedecked golf carts all passed at a stately pace. Just as the parade drew to a close, intermittent sprinkles turned to a downpour.
People brought umbrellas and rain gear to the Village Green on Saturday evening, but the rain held off for the ice cream social and what was the Town Band’s first performance in nearly two years.
“That was the first time the band had been willing to sit so close to each other,” said band member and interim conductor Chapin Kaynor. “Everybody is vaccinated in the band, but just getting comfortable. The transition to not-mask-wearing is as difficult as it was to mask-wearing, I think.
“The town is so ready to be able to socialize, to enjoy an event together,” Kaynor added. “It was so nice that it could come together.”
That was the feeling statewide, according to Gov. Scott.
“After 16 long and difficult months dealing with a once-in-a-century pandemic, this Independence Day, Vermonters are together once again, celebrating the birth of our great nation with friends and family,” the governor said in a statement Friday. “Many around the state will be attending parades, cookouts and firework displays, heading to state parks, the lake or downtown, with a new sense of independence, born from our collective efforts, hard work and determination in our battle against COVID-19.
“Since our nation’s founding, Vermonters have served as an example. Our response these past months has been no exception. As we enter our recovery phase, let us be inspired by the words of our founders, build on the progress we’ve made and have the courage to do things differently and boldly in pursuit of a more perfect union.”
— VTDigger contributed reporting