By Jason Starr
It takes particular dedication to dress up in a furry, oversized costume and walk a mile in the middle of Williston Road in 90-degree heat.
Some hidden technology helps, too.
Ramunto’s owner Jeff Paul has donned the costume of the pizza restaurant’s mascot, Mungo, in the Williston Fourth of July parade since 2010. It’s safe to say, Wednesday’s parade was the hottest.
But Mungo didn’t melt. Fueled by the response from parade spectators lining both sides of the street, he remained energetic through the route.
“I was fine,” a sweat-soaked Paul said after removing the costume’s head. “You get so much motivation from this crowd.”
Paul installed a small, battery-powered fan inside the suit and wore a cooling vest that was drenched in water and refrigerated overnight to ensure Mungo would make his annual appearance.
“Mungo would never miss a parade,” Paul said. “He’s a gamer.”
Williston firefighter Prescott Nadeau was also in uniform for the parade, part of the four-member honor guard that carried the Vermont and United States flags. He noticed the response among parade spectators — those who straightened up and saluted as the flags passed.
“People appreciate the honor guard leading the parade and appreciate the fire department,” Nadeau said. “We heard that and that kept us going … It was very hot, but we were going to stick to it no matter what the weather was.”
The heat caused the postponement of the annual Firecracker 5K Fun Run. Originally scheduled for Tuesday night, the event was rescheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. at Williston Community Park.
Nadeau reported that the fire department transported two residents with heat exhaustion from their homes to the hospital Monday, when temperatures peaked in the upper 90s. The residents did not have air conditioning in their homes and had other health conditions that made them susceptible to heat exhaustion, he said.
“This is unlike anything we are used to,” Nadeau said. “This is excessive heat for a week and a half.”
Parade spectators sought out shady spots Wednesday morning and patronized the lemonade and snow cone stands Williston Road residents had set up along the route.
Cory and Laura Payson said it was important to “travel light.” They hydrated before coming out to avoid having to carry water and left bags and purses in their car. They also arrived a little closer to the 10 a.m. parade start time than they normally do to limit their heat exposure.
“It wasn’t going to hold us back.” Cory said.
“We love the parade,” Laura added.
In their first year participating, about 12 members of the Mansfield Nordic Club roller-skied the parade route, tossing snowballs gathered from the shavings of the Zamboni machine resting in a pile outside UVM’s Gutterson Field House ice rink.
The team can often be found training on Williston’s roads.
“We train every day in whatever weather, but when it’s this extreme heat, we ski in the evening or morning,” said Ric Schaaf, a club board member and Williston resident. “It’s hot to be wearing winter cross country ski boots and socks and roller-skiing slowly down a hot road. But once we got into it, it didn’t bother anybody too much.”