What “Giving Back” Looks Like

17Jul15

cadets4
If anyone wants an example of a civic group having a positive impact on the town, they need look no further than last July 4.

After more than a year of determined, hard work, the new Wakefield Independence Day Committee and its team of volunteers resurrected the largest Independence Day Parade in the state and in doing so brought back a Wakefield tradition for current and hopefully for future generations to come.

Even more heartening, the return of this patriotic celebration was spearheaded by an army of young people led by 20 year-old Patrick Sullivan, reassuring the rest of us that most millennials are nothing like Ariana Grande.

There was no parade in 2013 or 2014, after members of the old Wakefield Independence Day Committee decided to call it quits after devoting themselves to the parade for many years. No one could blame them. It is a monumental, all-consuming, year-round commitment.
patrick_sullivan
But in March 2014, a new Wakefield Independence Day Committee was formed, led by then 19 year-old Patrick Sullivan. The new WIDC announced its intention to bring the parade back in 2015.

If bringing back an entertaining annual event was all that this new Wakefield Independence Day Committee had accomplished, that would have been plenty. But they did much more than that.

As the banner at the start of the parade touted, the Wakefield July 4th Parade is “Massachusetts Biggest and Best.” The bragging rights that come with having the biggest parade in the state are worth something to the community. (Reports that protesters were spotted at the parade carrying “IT’S TOO BIG” signs proved unfounded.)
parade_sign
People around the country associate Boston with its spectacular Boston Pops July 4th celebration every year. When people across the region and the state think of Wakefield, they think of our grand parade. There are far worse things to be known for than a patriotic celebration.

But the beneficial impact of the July 4th Parade goes way beyond two hours of entertainment on a summer afternoon.

Because Wakefield is known as the town with the biggest parade in the state, people come here from all over on the 4th of July. It’s impossible to quantify how many of these visitors decide to come back because while here they saw something they liked, but there’s no doubt that happens many times over.

galvin_middle_school2How many visiting parade watchers will come back because while here they spied a restaurant that they’d like to try? Or maybe they noticed that we have a farmers market on the shores of a beautiful lake. Or perhaps a young family in the market for their first home came to the parade and noticed the shiny new Galvin Middle School.

Or maybe they were simply greeted with a smile from a member of the Wakefield Police Department.

Anyone who came to Wakefield for the parade certainly left with a positive impression of the town. And that’s good for business.
sponsor_signs Also good for business are the parade sponsors, who were represented by young people carrying the sponsors’ banners in the parade. When people who love the parade see that a local business supports the parade, they are more likely to support that business.

It cost over $70,000 to bring back the parade. One of the toughest jobs anywhere is asking people for money. Just ask any politician. The WIDC volunteers who had to solicit donations deserve credit as well as the sponsors who donated.

Those of us who just sit back and enjoy the parade have no concept of the amount of work that it took to bring the parade back and what it will take to keep it going. Civic endeavors of this magnitude require far more than just attending meetings, creating a Facebook page and standing in front of the Post Office on Saturday mornings.

Politicians and others like to pay lip service to “giving back” to the community, but here we have an authentic example of what that expression truly means.

Thank you, Wakefield Independence Day Committee, for giving Wakefield back its parade.

[This column originally appeared in the July 16, 2015 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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