When it comes to the 4th of July in the Tri-Town, Marion is the perpetual frontrunner with its grand parade, horse show at Washburn Park, and elaborate fireworks display. Even on years when there aren’t any fireworks on the nighttime horizon, Marion’s annual parade makes up for it year after year with more spectators, more floats, and more candy than ever before.
According to parade board member Donna Hemphill who has been an integral part of the parade’s evolution since the disbanding of VFW Post 2425 in 2016, 2019 saw more parade float entries than ever.
“All the planning and execution went well. Every year it gets a little easier,” said Hemphill. “Since we started online applications, it has made the collection of the information much more streamlined. I get emails when an application is received. It’s pretty great.
“Jody Dickerson and his crew helped with the set up ahead of time. Bobby Alves, Demi Barros, and Jeff Hemphill helped coordinate the traffic/line-up of the participants. At the check-in table I had Marleigh Hemphill, Mia Hemphill, Payton Lord, Shelby McKim, and Amanda McKim helping with check-in and day-of registrations. Demita Wright was also on hand helping out.”
The lining up of the floats is by far the hardest part of the task, said Hemphill. She is at the Town House the night before until dark organizing the morning line-up, waiting until as late as possible to undertake the task to allow for the submission of parade float entries. She then makes sure that the float judges have their clipboards and judging criteria in time for the floats to pass by Thursday morning. But, still, on the morning of the parade, Hemphill said, there are always some last-minute entries that must be included just in the nick of time.
“I am so happy with how the parade came together this year,” said Hemphill. “It is always such a positive event, and everyone is always so happy. I was pleased with the number of floats and new participants this year, too. The weather was perfect! Well, a little hot, but otherwise perfect!”
Coordinating the 4th of July parade is a labor of love for Hemphill, and her family, as a matter of fact. Hemphill anticipates that she will continue in her role as parade board member for some time into the future, a promise she and Dickerson made to VFW Post 2425 to continue the parade, as well as the Memorial Day and Veterans Day festivities.
“To me, it’s so important to keep these traditions going,” Hemphill said. “It is a lot to put together, takes evening hours and time on the holidays themselves, but it is worth every minute. The 4th of July Parade is the perfect example of small town living in New England. It is such a sense of community. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.”
The judges were Patricia McKim, Melissa Sepulveda, Lisa Clancy, Eileen Sprague, Sheila McManus, and Pete Smith. The winners of the various categories are as follows: For best marching unit, the Marion Town Band; Junior marching unit, the Girl Scouts; Color Guard, the
Marion VFW; for most original float, the First Congregational Church of Rochester; for best historical entry, the Wareham Minutemen; for best family group float, the Friends of Jack Foundation; for best civic group, the Cub Scouts; for best commercial entry, Patrick’s Candy Pantry; best antique vehicle, Charles Bradley; best antique fire engine, Howard Smith; best civic vehicle, Marion Fire Department; best tractor, Debby Briggs; and for best in parade, the Friends of Jack Foundation.
By Jean Perry