Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fade to Black

Amherst July 4 Parade 2002-2012

They say you don't really appreciate something until it's gone. Especially those service oriented endeavors you learn to rely on as part of a favorite routine--a funky restaurant, a comfortable health club or a one of a kind movie theatre.

Sadly, we will soon find out if a good old fashioned patriotic parade makes your list. Because this July 4th--for the first time in ten years--downtown Amherst will not host an endless line of slow moving firetrucks, police cars, construction trucks, tractors, marching bands, floats, veterans, cheering crowds and more flags than Amherst sees all year.

The last town sponsored July 4 Parade stepped off in 1976. After a 26 year hiatus and as a direct response to the horror of 9/11, Kevin Joy reconstituted a private July 4th Parade Committee to put on a family oriented extravaganza while giving public thanks to our public servants--police, fire, EMT, and military.

And since 2002 the parade committee has done exactly that. But from the very beginning the committee was harassed and bullied by the town because the rules of the parade called for a celebration, not a protest.

In 2008 then town manager Larry Shaffer arbitrarily decided the town would run a 7/4 parade and the private committee would not be issued a permit.  As you can see, I did not take that very well. Neither did the ACLU, and the town quickly backed down.

Last year with a new town manager and normalized Select Board, for the first time in our short history there was no controversy--no mention of anti war protests one way or the other. Like all the previous years, the parade itself went off without a hitch.
So why surrender now?  Costs mainly.   The entire committee donates their labor but the bands,insurance, police, and a dozen other items amounts to serious money.  Plus fundraising is never easy--especially in this economy.

Besides that we're tired.  And now, sorry. So very sorry.

The Springfield Republican reports

Sent: Thu, May 31, 2012 9:55 am
Hi Kevin, Helen, Larry and others --

I just wanted to tell you how sorry I was to hear from Scott Merzbach yesterday that the parade won't happen this year.  You all have done such an amazing job with that and made it a special part of the July 4th events.  It's hard to imagine that day without it.  I will miss it, as will so many others, and I hope it can come back next year.

The work it takes to make the parade happen is incredible -- and beyond what most of us probably imagine.  The careful organization of the whole thing, particularly the check-in and set-up by Amherst College, and how smoothly that runs, has always been so impressive to me.  An enormous task that you all made run like clock work!  (Scott's article today is erroneous in suggesting I said it may not be too late for others to put together a similar parade -- I don't think that would even be possible.  My comment about "maybe it's not too late" was my reaction when he told me that you couldn't raise enough money for this year.)   Your attention to the logistics of it all made for such a professional and well-run event.     

Thank you for your work on this for all these years!  It has brought happiness to so many!  

Stephanie O'Keeffe
Chair, Amherst Select Board


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your work in the past Larry. We're all sorry too. Thank you again tho.

debbie shumway said...

Sorry, Larry!..we enjoyed being in the parade for the last 9 years.It was a wonderful thing for the town and for uniting everyone in a common enjoyable experience.
We looked forward to your call each spring!.....Thank you, and to all the people who saw this through each year.
Our family will miss it.
Debbie Shumway
Shumway Roofing Amherst

LarryK said...

Thanks Debbie. You guys were great; reliable as they come.

Anonymous said...

Amherst really is a revolting town. Where else in the United States would having a Fourth of July parade be a perennial source of controversy?

Anonymous said...

1. Was this announced early enough for the town or another group to pull off a parade?
2. Where will their leftover funds be donated to?

LarryK said...

Thank you for your concern,CAN.