Image Source: Andrea Westbye http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrea_w/
Blink and you’ll miss it. But if you do blink, the parade turns around and comes back for a reverse lap of triumph. Just don’t blink and miss that.
Sure, there are small-town parades on the 4th every year. But none of them are the Whitefield, Maine July 4th Parade, held every year on the birth date of this great country and also on the birth date of my brother Eric.
Whitefield, Maine, sits on the Sheepscot River in Lincoln County. It’s about halfway between Wiscasset and Gardiner, so it’s mostly lumped in as a Capitol area town, since Augusta is only about fifteen miles away by Rt. 17. It is small (population 2,273 as of the 2000 census), with a surprisingly mixed population of farmers and artisans. The town was named after British evangelist George Whitefield, who apparently never ventured anywhere close to his own town. Whitefield was settled in 1770 and officially incorporated in 1809.
The sculptor Roger Majorowicz created a magnificent installation in a field along the Sheepscot, featuring his interpretation of Don Quixote astride Rocinante. This collection has greeted motorists entering Whitefield on Rt. 194 out of Wiscasset for as long as I can remember.
Whitefield is small enough to be serviced by the fire departments of Jefferson, Coopers Mills and King’s Mills, and naturally all have a major fire truck presence in the July 4th Parade.
Here is the 10,000’ overview of the parade: 10:00 Sharp (the sign doesn’t lie!) fire trucks with sirens on 11, livestock, antique cars, random protest float, patriotic floats, antique tractors. Turn around and repeat.
From each float you will be pelted with bags of Swee-tarts, Pixy Stix and Werther’s Originals, and you risk losing a finger by A. foot or B. tire in the stampede to grab as much candy as humanly possible. This is if you are still upright after hours of heatstroke, CO2 inhalation, hearing loss and claustrophobia, of course.
And then it’s time for games, shopping and eats! Bean bag toss, pig scramble, pies, hot dogs, home-made paintings, History of Whitefield books alongside old Jackie Collins masterpieces alongside Loverboy cassettes, town gossip and innuendo…brother, walk a block and the world is yours!
Eric usually loads up on post-breakfast/pre-lunch dogs, and then we head home. His day has always been a bacchanal of friends and family, presents, grilling and general American merriment. The day goes on, and is ultimately taken over by sparklers and fireworks on TV.
It is an occasion on the calendar second only to Christmas over our years. His day is our day in the sense that most of America embraces it, of course. But the fact that it’s really HIS day only makes it OUR day that much more. Just don’t blink: the day only comes around once a year.