|Williamstown July 4 Parade Returns This Summer|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
03:56AM / Friday, June 04, 2021
|The Williamstown Fourth of July Parade returns this year.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The head of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce is as surprised as anyone that the organization will once more hold one of its signature events in a little more than a month.
But on Wednesday morning, Sue Briggs announced that the town's Hometown Parade is on for 11 a.m. on July 4.
"If you had asked me this three or four weeks ago, the answer was: There's absolutely no way," Briggs said. "But as soon as the governor made that decision to reopen the economy, and as soon as some of our events, like Williams' Senior Celebration, had a good reception and it was clear that people were anxious to get out, it seemed like the right thing to do.
"It's going to be a busy month."
As it has since 2017, the town's Independence Day celebration will be capped with a 9:30 p.m. fireworks show at the Taconic Golf Club. On Wednesday morning, Jane Patton, the general manager of Taconic's clubhouse, said the club is finalizing plans for the evening, which she hopes will include the cookout that has been part of the event in years past.
Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to all the town's July 4 events. Briggs said the chamber's parade committee has been talking about how to celebrate the day this year for some time. Those talks accelerated with Gov. Charlie Baker's May 17 announcement
Some things won't be the same as years past. There won't be a post-parade cookout in the Spring Street parking lot. There won't be a pie-baking contest that drew a large crowd inside the Williams College Bookstore on July 4, 2019. Images Cinema, which is still operating under capacity limits, won't offer films in the afternoon. And the Williamstown Theatre Festival's traditional reading of the founding documents will be virtual this time around, Briggs said.
The chamber reached out to the interim town manager, interim police chief and health inspector, and all were supportive of the decision to revive the parade, Briggs said.
Perhaps as important: So were those who traditionally march in the parade.
"I did a soft outreach last week to some of our more consistent marchers," Briggs said. "I thought, it's lovely if we have a parade, but if we don't have anyone in it, that's a problem.
"Some of them were instantaneous saying, 'Yes, we're in.' A couple said, 'Let me check with our board,' and they came back and said yes. Some were a little more conservative, and to them we say, ‘Decorate a vehicle or create a trailer. Define your own bubble if you're not comfortable walking.' "
The same goes for spectators who traditionally crowd both sides of Spring Street to watch the parade. Briggs noted that the Chamber would not have the authority to require masks even if it wanted to, but like the businesses it serves, it respects the choices that individuals choose to make.
"So much is going to change so quickly," Briggs said. "We're all in different places with our comfort level about masks. My recommendation to businesses is: You need to do what's best for your employees and your customers. That's probably where we'll land [with the parade]. Do what you need to do to make it an enjoyable day."
Patton said the golf club is taking the same approach.
"We recognize some people may not feel great about gathering in big groups," Patton said. "Find your favorite spot in Williamstown and enjoy the fireworks in your own way. While we love the fact that people come to the course, [the cookout] is a break even thing for us. It's not a revenue generator.
"If you watch it on the fairway or from your driveway, we just want you to enjoy it."
That said, Patton appreciates the opportunity to gather and celebrate the holiday and the ability to gather itself.
"It feels hopeful," Patton said. "It feels lighter. I think we all, in our own way, carried the weight and the enormity of what the whole country and the whole world went through.
"As horrible as it is for the 600,000 Americans who didn't make it through this and the countless people impacted by those losses and the frontline workers dealing with this — to kind of come out on the other side of it, we should be celebrating that. I feel like we're celebrating that as much as anything else, at least in my heart."