By Mary Kathleen Mehuron

The Fourth of July Parade website says, “For the 73rd-almost-consecutive-year, we celebrate our independence with a wild, wacky, and wickedly fun parade, street dance, and family festivities at the Warren 4th of July Parade and Festivities!”



From the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce website: No alcohol permitted in Warren Village during the parade hours of 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lawson’s will be served at Brooks Field (elementary school) following the end of the parade and the start of festivities. Music by Mad Mountain Scramblers and supervised kids’ fun by Kidventures, along with the Beer Garden at Brooks Field. The village will feature high-energy tunes from the porch of The Warren Store for dancing and listening.

Susan Klein, who runs the parade on behalf of the Mad River Valley Rotary Club and its over 60 members, said, “After the accident in 1996 things had to change. That’s when the select board encouraged The Warren Store to not sell alcohol until after the streets reopened.”

Pam Rickard, whose mother owned The Warren Store at the time, said she was more than ready to do that. Her mother, Carol Lippincott, had been concerned for years about the growing chaos during the parade and after. Carol gladly agreed with the select board.

Susan went on, “Jack Garvin continued that policy, and I encouraged the new owners of The Warren Store to do the same. It’s a non-alcohol event. The quirkiness of the day is that if you want alcohol you have to go up to the school yard. Only in the Mad River Valley do you have to go to the school to get the beer. We have the beer garden up there for those people who want to have an adult libation. However, at the school, it’s a much more laid back atmosphere. There are supervised kids’ activities, it’s a great place for families to go, there’s live music there too — but it’s not the high-energy-style dance music. That’s downtown. Up at the school it’s more kick back, have your beer and watch the kids have sack races. A more relaxed atmosphere, so much more manageable. We’ve never had problems up there. But downtown was. . . a different story.

“But now we try to keep it fun and safe for everyone. Some years we do that better than others. A lot depends on who is there and how energetic the security force is. I’ve worked on the parade for 17 or 18 years. I’ve kind of lost track at this point. Up at the park, over the years, I’ve found if there are young people up there and they have open containers, the sheriffs talk to me first. I go to them and say, ‘You got to lose it. The next stop will not be me, it will be the sheriff. I’m giving you your only warning. They respect that and know who I am and know I mean it. Containers go away. And the problem is solved.

“It’s kind of fun that we’re able to find that balance.”

My husband and I have not been to the parade for many years. I asked Susan how long the band downtown played once the parade was done.

“Well, let’s say the parade starts somewhere around 10 o’clock. The parade takes about an hour — an hour and 15 minutes — to get from the Covered Bridge Road, up toward Brook Road and to the school. We’ve all seen the picture at the end of the parade when it’s just wall-to-wall people. It reminds me of when you turn a rock over and you expose ants. They all start going in different directions, but they know where they are going. And then they all disappear. Some people are going to catch the bus, some to the school yard, some the Port-o-let, some to the street dance. The band starts to watch the crowd and when a group has settled in, they play for about two and a half hours.

“Up at the school it’s about the same. It depends on the weather. If it’s the seventh day of a heat stretch or if it’s raining. . . it might peter out early. It depends on the kids really.

“What people don’t know is that we’ll have a new band next year! We’re going to start a new tradition. It’s going to be a band comprised of local young adults. We’re going to have the Holter Family and some other members that have played together. I think they played as Peace in The Valley.

“We’ve had Jimmy Yozell play for, I think, 32 years. He came in from Colorado every year and that was a lot to ask of him. Bruce Sklar was part of that group and he picked it from there for the last eight years. He’s been coming up from southern Vermont to do it. Putting the group together, holding the rehearsals, and what not. But he is ready to pass the baton.”

I wanted to know her favorite part about the parade. She said, “Being there at 6:30 in the morning. It’s a little foggy. It’s absolutely quiet and there’s nobody in the street. I kind of just stand there and think about what’s coming. And the lead up to the parade. . . there’s so much energy in the air. Five thousand people with positive energy -- it’s electric.

“And they are just genuinely happy to be together. The parade is not easy to get to. You’ve got to find a place to park, or you have to take the bus. . . you’ve got to want to be there.”


“And just watching people looking for their buddy cracks me up. The buddy badge thing was a weird off shoot. It was an idea that came from the Newport (Rhode Island) Regatta or some sailboat race. And they had buddy badges.

“So I have printed up these badges about the size of an index card, maybe a little smaller. They are numbered 1 through 3,000, randomly, twice. There’s two boxes -- box A and box B. We give box A to the gatekeepers at Main Street at Fuller Hill. Box B gets split between Brook Road and the entrance from Route 100. For a dollar they get their number. And they want it. They are just thrusting money at you.

“The game is to find the matching number in the crowd. Somebody has the same number. Out there somewhere. It’s a great thing for kids to do while they are waiting for the parade, because you have to get there so early. They can spend time trying to find their buddy. Trying to find their matching number. People are walking up and down the street calling their number out. It allows people to make contact. Eye contact. Conversation. You find your new buddy and the two of you go to the gazebo for a pair of matching prizes.

“I got 65 matching pairs of prizes donated this year. A lot were people who buy gift certificates from local businesses. That saves me from having to do it myself. We give all the prizes away by the time the parade starts. Because the street closes down at 8:30 a.m. and the parade doesn’t start till 10 a.m. — it gives people something to do. It’s really fun to watch someone when they find their match.”