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'4th of July' Parades Evoke Pride, Community Spirit, Fond Memories - 2003-07-01

For many communities in the United States, the 4th of July holiday wouldn't be the same without a parade. Thousands of them will take place this week all across the country.

Brandon, Vermont is like a lot of small, New England towns. White picket fences and old brick houses flank the main street. Church steeples rise up prominently on several corners and hundred-year-old maple trees provide shade. Most days, Brandon is fairly quiet. But all that changes on the 4th of July, when the town hosts Vermont's largest Independence Day parade.

"I love a parade, everyone loves a parade, said Cindi McTaggert. "For me, I think it goes back to growing up. Everybody went to the 4th of July parade. I couldn't wait to get my bicycle out, decorate it with crepe paper and balloons and whatever. In my town we had a contest for those little bicycles. And it wouldn't be the 4th of July without a parade." "I think it's just fun," said Brandon resident, Warren Kimble. "I helped coordinate the parade for years and years and we'd spend the whole year working on it and I think that's part of the fun, too. Not just the hour, or the hour and a half it takes, but the preparation time that's so enjoyable with the people that are on the committee."

"Well, I think parades are all about community… coming together and seeing people you know and cheering them on and celebrating whatever they're out there for," Donna O'Malley said. "Whether it's the float that they made or the event that they stand for, or the person that they're standing for. So, for me a parade is all about community."

Besides providing a showplace for community groups and marching bands, parades are also popular with local politicians. Anthony Polina, who has run for statewide office several times in Vermont, says parades and campaigning go hand in hand.

"Campaigning is getting to know people, and parades are great places to get to know people," he said. "People are out, they're ready to have a good time, they're ready to say hello. It's really a community thing and it's really nice to be here because it's a good way to connect with folks."

"I like the bands in parades, I do like the bag pipes and the horns they kind of hit you in the pit of your stomach and really sends me back to when I was a kid and the parades came right past my house," continued Mr. Polina. "I really enjoy the music."

Kelly Weigand, who helped organize the parade, an eight-month process, says is well worth the effort.

"Well, you always get goose bumps, so I think that brings you back every single time," said Ms. Weigand. "I think just the opportunity to see people in town and what they're doing. The floats always draw people, the bands draw people. Even the tourists who come and appreciate how small your town is and how wonderful it is and see the spirit that's there. It's like exactly like what you'd hope to find in any small town."

It's a community spirit that Ms. Weigand says will last long after the bands pack up and the crowds go home.