By Mark Simonson Contributing Writer
---- — People plugged their ears as the fire whistle sounded promptly at 11 a.m., marking the start of the 99th annual Fourth of July Parade at Springfield Center.
It was attended by a crowd of about 4,000, typical in most recent years, lining the parade route deeply at some places from Smith Road to the Springfield Community Center. Shade was at a premium, but after the recent rains, onlookers didn’t seem to mind the heat and humidity.
About two doors up from the fire station on county Route 29, Dorothy and Leland Harvey had an excellent view from their lawn under a tree.
“We’ve been watching the parade from here for about 50 years,” Dorothy said, along with a friend, Joan Vanderwerker. Dorothy is a lifelong resident of Springfield Center, and Vanderwerker, now from Cherry Valley, was originally from here and always attends the parade.
A total of 75 units participated in the parade, according to Deb Miller, parade chairwoman, with bands, floats, fire department apparatus from all over the region, plus antique and muscle cars from the 1970s. Iver Lindberg, a local business owner, was the parade’s Grand Marshal.
Civic and other organizations marched as well. The parade theme this year was “Of the People, By the People, For the People,” and while the past was observed by many groups, one group called the Patriot Whistleblowers added a message regarding the present day. One member carried a sign, “Snowden is defending YOUR Constitutional Rights.” Another read, “Spying on the American Public is a Clear Violation of YOUR Constitutional Rights.” A marcher wore a paper bag over the top of his head labeled, “Data Mega Storage.”
Youngsters watching the parade might have thought that this was Halloween, with the amount of candy tossed to them by many participating parade units. In the spirit of future shade for our area’s landscape, the Otsego County Land Trust gave many onlookers small tree saplings to be planted.
Joseph Homburger, a board member of the Land Trust said, “We gave away white spruce and balsam fir, about 1,000 of them. We got them from the state nursery in Saratoga.”
When the parade truly started in 1914, baseball was played afterward between local town teams. While this is no longer a tradition, the Cooperstown Hawkeyes marched yesterday, but had to leave early in order to get some practice in at Doubleday Field before their game against the Watertown Wizards.
After the last unit passed, most formed their own parade to the Springfield Community Center for a variety of events. Melita Oldick, a student at Owen D. Young Central School sang the national anthem, an Abraham Lincoln impersonator read the Gettysburg Address, and many enjoyed a concert by the Cooperstown Community Band. Barbecued chicken and other foods and beverages were available. Numerous awards and prizes were given for best school bands, fire department units, floats and a total of 13 decorated bicycles. A 1913 Fourth of July gathering at nearby Ryerson Field featured a bicycle parade, thought to be the idea that sparked a more spectacular parade in 1914.
Miller said she was pleased with the day overall and thrilled that fire departments and organizations from Fort Plain and Canajoharie could make it, given last week’s devastating floods in their communities.
Next comes the centennial celebration of the parade in 2014. Miller said the planning began about six months ago, but the committee has taken the last two months off to focus on this year’s parade. Miller said the 2014 event will include more than one day, and have many additional special activities, concerts and fireworks in the evening.