by Mark Simonson Contributing Writer
---- — “Celebrate the Fourth of July by coming to town and enjoying our celebration and inauguration day at the Ryerson Athletic Field.”
As written by the Springfield Center correspondent for a local newspaper of July 2, 1913, consider yourself invited, then and now. That particular celebration was one that sparked an idea for something even bigger, now in its 99th year, the Springfield Fourth of July Parade.
Local residents may have gathered previously for the Fourth in Springfield Center, but they didn’t have a good place to do so. That changed in 1913 when Ryerson Field was dedicated and a grandstand built. The field was given to Springfield Center by the Ryerson family, after Arthur L. Ryerson died in 1912 going down with the ship as the S.S. Titanic sank.
With a good gathering place ready in 1913, there was a baseball game between Cooperstown and Richfield Springs and other athletic contests to participate in. Carl Ely, for example, caught the greased pig in the chase, “and won a valuable prize.” There was also a report of a “spectacular bicycle parade” with many handsomely trimmed wheels.
With the new grandstand and bicycle parade, something must have sparked the organizers’ imaginations to make the Fourth in Springfield Center bigger and better. A summary of the day showed that the effort worked, as reported on July 8, 1914.
“It was a grand and glorious day and as happy merry people assembled on ‘the day we celebrate.’ The Fusileers parade at 11 o’clock, forming at the home of Frank Smith, and marching thro’ the village to Ryerson Field, was the finest of anything ever given here.” The Schuyler Lake Brass Band headed the parade, and a long list of floats and groups marching followed. The float of the Library Association won first prize, representing every nation by young parladies. The big annual gathering at Ryerson Field followed, ending with a “handsome display of fireworks.”
Ninety-nine years later, the tradition continues. Deb Miller is the chairwoman of the Springfield Fourth of July Parade, having served on the planning committee for nearly 30 years. The parade has only been cancelled two times, in 1943 when gasoline rationing prevented unnecessary travel and in 2008 due to daylong torrential downpours.
This year’s parade theme is “Of the People, By the People, For the People.” Iver Lindberg, owner of Springfield Tractor & Implement LLC, has been chosen to be the grand marshal. Miller said Lindberg is incredibly supportive of not only the annual parade but also of many other local organizations.
“We really wanted to take this opportunity to honor him and all his business has done for the community,” Miller said.
Lindberg plans to retire from the business within the next year.
Since the idea of a bigger parade began after a bicycle parade in 1913, it seems fitting that bicycles should be prominent now. Miller said the number of bicycles in the parade has dwindled in the last 10 years, despite raising the prize and incentive levels. The number of pre-registered bicycle participants has begun to increase, but Miller would like to see more. The deadline to enter for prizes was extended to Monday, July 1, but has passed. However, bicyclists can show up on parade day.
The parade will begin at 11 a.m. on the south end of the hamlet at Smith Road, and will end at the Springfield Community Center, where spectators are urged to come early and park for free. Special guest “Abraham Lincoln” will be on hand to recite The Gettysburg Address, to honor the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. There will be live music, a Brooks’ chicken barbecue, quilt show, games, displays and more to enjoy after the parade.
Next week, we’ll have results of parade prize winners and a sneak peak ahead to the 2014 centennial parade.