If the Parade Passed You By: July 4th in Pittsfield
Our cultural correspondent Bess Hochstein was an official judge at Pittsfield’s famous Independence Day Parade and filed this photo essay and report: Last year USA Today called the Pittsfield 4th of July Parade one of the Top Ten in the nation, so this year I grabbed a front-row seat to see what all the fuss was about. Preceded by the Berkshire Medical Center’s 24th Annual Independence Day Run—a sanctioned 5K road race up and down North and South streets—the two-hour parade has all the elements of a classic patriotic procession: cheerleaders, marching bands, vintage cars, veterans’ groups, hand-shaking politicians (including Governor Deval Patrick with Mayor James Ruberto, right), Shriners in mini-mobiles, floats, flag bunting, balloons, and scores of police and fire departments, honking the horns and blaring the sirens of their various vehicles. This all-volunteer effort, which dates back to 1824, also shows its hometown stripes (and stars) with performances by Barrington Stage Company’s Youth Theatre; a rolling farmstand stocked with produce from local CSAs; cartwheeling firemen, a Norman Rockwell ringer painting his iconic self-portrait in the back of a truck; and a panel of expert music judges including Tony-Award winning composer William Finn—who called on a friend, Broadway musical star Chip Zein, to serve as guest celebrity judge—and Ed Bride of the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival. Music ranged from bagpipes to bluegrass to barbershop choruses, with a heavy dose of fife and drum corps, all playing holiday favorites: America the Beautiful, She’s a Grand Old Flag, God Bless America, Yankee Doodle, plus Chicago’s Saturday in the Park. In the gray-skied morning before it all began, it was impossible not to think of Don’t Rain on My Parade, but the clouds never let loose, not even after being sliced through by a flyover of F15s from Barnes Air National Guard Base.
The Philmont Fire Department’s 1860 hose cart.
The Moodus Drum and Fife Corps from Moodus, CT.
Children and adults were equally in awe of the enormous balloons.
The Adams Alert Hose Company brought a beautiful 1885 parade cart built in Seneca Falls, NY.
The float from Here at Home, a Pittsfield not-for-profit that welcomes back soldiers from Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones.
Some Shriners showed up in miniature cars.
What would a parade be without vintage cars?
Members of the Baltimore City Police Department Marching Revels, which one first prize for best musical group.
The Uncle Sam Chorus from Troy, NY, the birthplace of Uncle Sam.
A grand old band.
Members of the Pittsfield American Defenders baseball team, which plays in historic Wahconah Park.
The Randy Roderick Jockey Balloon did a few spins on North Street with help from 34 handlers from UNICO.
The Oldies-But-Goodies Singers in their souped-up ‘57 Chevy.
The Party’s Barn’s patriotic balloon float.
Some of the kids who walked alongside the Party Barn’s float.
Broadway composer William Finn, who was a parade judge, with Uncle Sam (aka Fred Polnisch).