Even Sans Pols, Parade Packs Punch

21Jul11

It takes the Wakefield Independence Day Committee many months to put together the annual July Fourth Parade, and Monday’s parade was no exception. But even for mere spectators, attending the parade involves a good deal of advance planning in order to stake out a prime viewing spot. As early as Sunday afternoon there were so many plastic chairs lining the parade route that, as one local wit observed, it looked like South Boston on the day after a blizzard.

Flag GirlsThere have been longer Independence Day Parades in past years, but even at just over one hour in length, Monday’s parade was a feast of floats, flags, fire engines, marching bands, color guards, horses, costumes and uniforms.

US Senator Scott BrownMissing in action were the elected officials and politicians. Even native son Sen. Scott Brown, who brought his star power to last year’s parade, took a pass this year. Sure, our stalwart selectmen marched, as did State Rep. Donald Wong and Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian. But unlike last year, there was no Congressman John Tierney, no State Senator Katherine Clark, no Rep. Paul Brodeur.

Last year’s parade was literally crawling with solons and would-be solons. But last year was an election year and they needed something from you: your vote. This year, not so much. But I’ll bet you a can of silly string that they’ll all be back in 2012, smiling and waving and pointing at people they pretend to recognize in the crowd.

Sarah PalinAt least the parade lineup did feature one high-profile national political figure: Sarah Palin look-alike Cecelia Thompson. Those waiting to see the Anthony Weiner look-alike were disappointed, but it was a family-oriented event after all.

Grand Marshall Richard BayrdThis year’s Parade Grand Marshall was Wakefield native Richard Bayrd, a Narragansett Indian who for many years has marched in traditional Native American garb. Being Grand Marshall has its perks. This year, Bayrd and his family got to ride in a red convertible.

The Wakefield Police Honor Guard made their first parade appearance, accompanied by WPD cruisers, motorcycles and even the department’s electric car.

Col. Bailey’s 2nd Massachusetts Regiment marched in the uniforms of the Continental Army and the Revolutionary period. The Middlesex County Volunteers marched and played traditional repertoires of the regimental fife and drum corps associated with the American War for Independence.

There was a US Army Jeep, a green army tank, military veterans and the American Legion Band.

The Operation Home Ties float carried the Faces of Remembrance Traveling Tribute Wall. The wall honors the memory of Massachusetts fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have served and died since September 11, 2001. The wall features detailed pencil drawings of the fallen servicemen by Woburn portrait artist Gina Johnson.

One notable absence from this year’s parade was New England’s favorite cowboy, Rex Trailer. Last year, Rex eschewed the horse and rode on a wagon. This past May, Rex’s beloved wife of 55 years, Cindy, passed away. Rex is a favorite of baby boomers who in the 1950s and 1960s woke up weekend mornings to Boomtown on WBZ-TV. Here’s hoping Rex is back in the saddle for next year’s parade.

In all, it was another memorable Wakefield Independence Day parade. In next year’s parade, more of our elected officials will undoubtedly deem it worth their while to smile and wave and greet the constituents they serve.

Election years have a way of bringing out the best in everybody.

[This column originially appeared in the July 7, 2011 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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