BY KARSON PETTY
Community News Service
With Covid seemingly in the rear view, this year’s Fourth of July parade and activities on the Village Green spread much joy and appreciation.
People from all around Williston, young and old, began lining the parade route through the village as early as 9 a.m. on Monday. The warm air and clear sky made for ideal parade conditions, and leading participants rolled out from the Johnson Farm like clockwork just before 10 a.m.
By 10:05 a.m., the drums and horns of the Williston Town Band could be heard on the march, while Boy Scout Troop 692’s flag-bearers crested the rise in front of Town Hall. They were followed by this year’s parade grand marshals: Liz Demas, Lynn McClintock, Cathy Kohlasch and Sally Dattilio. The four teachers, recognized for their commitment to elementary education and community involvement, rode in the back of a sleek, red convertible.
They waved and voiced greetings from their mobile perch, driven by Williston resident Prineet Amin.
Amin was happy to lend his vehicle to the celebration and loved the opportunity to directly participate in a wonderful town event.
“It was a fun opportunity and a great experience,” he said.
As one of Amin’s grand marshal passengers, Kohlasch was grateful for the feelings of recognition, connection and togetherness that came with the honor.
“It’s nice that the community decided to recognize us four educators who taught many students that came through over the last 20-plus years,” she said.
Kohlasch, who teaches physical education at Williston Central School, said she was also grateful to make connections along the parade route with former students who now have families of their own, and current students in second and third grade.
“It was nice for (everyone) to reflect and remember teachers who helped pave the way for so many families and kids,” she said, adding that she has no plans to retire from teaching anytime soon.
“I still enjoy getting up and going to work every single day,” she said. “My enthusiasm and love for what I do and the people I work with is still there.”
The rest of the parade featured trucks from the Williston and Essex fire departments, a mock-landing craft full of Marine veterans, flag-adorned golf carts, local political hopefuls, the Sue Pasco Memorial Williston Precision Lawn Chair March and Drill Team, the Babcock Farm float, “Dotty” the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library summer bookmobile, youth sports teams, Mansfield Nordic Club, WFC cares, and a procession of classic firetrucks with horns blaring.
And, of course, there was plenty of candy to go around.
Miran Gosto and Emily Bullis of Essex Junction brought their two sons down to watch the parade.
“We’re most excited to see the fire trucks and police cars, and to collect lots of candy as well hopefully,” said Bullis.
By 11 a.m., the last of the parade had cleared Whitney Hill Road, and spectators began to migrate to the booths and activities on the Village Green.
Senior Planner Emily Heymann and Energy Coordinator Melinda Scott ran the town’s Planning and Zoning tent. Heymann admitted that it was her first time attending the Fourth of July parade since first becoming a Williston resident five years ago.
Despite not attending before the pandemic, the large crowds on the green led her to believe that people were comfortable gathering together once again.
“This year, things are back full throttle,” she said.
Heymann was also there to promote outreach for the Taft Corners form-based code and a future update to village zoning.
Other organizations on the green Monday included Sustainable Williston, Williston Republicans, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Vermont, a collaborative campaign between the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and Vermont Interfaith Action called Abolish Slavery VT, and the Boy Scout Troop 692 fundraiser food tent.
Recreation and Parks Director Todd Goodwin was happy with how the holiday events played out.
“We got a lot of sponsors this year and a lot of groups doing their own things,” he said, “and together they’re providing a great event for the community.”
Goodwin noted an increase in parade registration and participation compared to last year and a large turnout for activities that were not on the green last year.
“(Planning) started in early April, but in future years it will need to start a lot earlier so that we can look to get things in different areas that we don’t have,” he said. “(The goal) is to keep some tradition but bring in some new activities as well.”
Just down the road, the Williston Fire Department hosted its own holiday event to compliment those on the green. All doors of the firehouse were open with all vehicles on display from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Fire Chief Aaron Collette was overjoyed at the Williston residents of all ages who at.tended the open house.
“From the young kids who came and sat here in awe of the firetrucks to our senior community members who came to check in and say ‘Hey, I have a question about this.’ — that is what we’re here for,” he said. “I think the community outpouring of support and to see all the smiles was fantastic, and the weather was a home run as well.”
OBSERVER PHOTOS BY AL FREY