CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Town officials maintained the municipality’s practice of holding a traditional Independence Day Parade on July 4 with a well-organized, deftly-managed parade of vehicles on Saturday.
The decorated fire trucks and classic American cars found in the parade each year were joined this time by a string of waste and recycling trucks, several mobile floats, a number of SUVs filled with the members of local organizations, antique cars, law enforcement vehicles, nearly a dozen polished convertibles, and pickup trucks and one front end loader.
Due to the continued presence of the COVID-19 coronavirus, everything about this parade was mobile.
The absence of walking groups, which is so much a part of this suburban town’s Independence Day Parade, was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to adhere to state guidelines. New this year, the parade was live-streamed on the town’s Facebook page.
Event organizers began getting the vehicles in formation at the Shenendehowa Central School District campus on Route 146 two hours before the parade’s state time of noon.
One of the organizations whose members would ride in the parade this year instead of walking was Miss Shen Softball. Six young women from the team Shen Vengeance were seated in the bed of a pickup truck eager to get started.
Having gone through the final quarter of school using virtual classrooms, they were asked to describe the experience.
“It’s been hard,” said Alana Shepard looking around at her teammates as they nodded their heads in agreement.
“Yes, it was hard, but we all managed to get through together,” added Clare Hurst.
A quick count showed a few of the team members were missing and when asked how the six girls wound up in the parade Amanda Mildy said they had volunteered.
When asked what they would miss most about this year’s modified parade the group agreed they would miss being allowed to toss small items to people along the route.
“We’re not allowed to toss anything this year,” Hurst said. “We usually toss gum.”
On a nearby hand-build float members of the Navy Seabees’ Albany Island X-10 were gathering together and discussing recent events. When asked if they regularly appear in the Clifton Park parade the unit’s Chaplain, Tom Peppas, jumped off to discuss the new guidelines.
“I would like to see the marchers and the bands that play along the route,” he said. “They’re really safer walking along than we are in the float.”
As he expanded on a discussion of his experiences in past parades, Peppas said one of his favorite things to do while on the float is to recognize those who have served in the military.
“My treat of this parade is to pay my respects and give a salute to the people who’ve served who are watching us go by,” he said.
Across town, near the Clifton Common where the parade would finish up the Boltz family, Raymond, and Heather and their two children Maria and Teddy, were preparing to see another Clifton Park July 4 parade.
“We don’t live very far away,” Raymond Boltz said. “We come every year so why not this year?”
“We’ve been coming every year for 12 years,” added his wife Heather. “I think we missed one when it was canceled due to rain.”
When discussing the changes in this year’s parade Heather Bolt guessed that Maria and Teddy would most likely miss the amusement rides that are usually part of the day’s activities.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” Maria Boltz said. “But it’s good for the community; it’ll bring the community together.”
When asked what they would miss the most in the parade, Teddy guessed he would probably miss the candy throws and the small gifts that are handed out by the people who walk on the edges of the parade route.
Once the parade made the turn from Route 146 onto Vischer Ferry Road it was one continuous line of moving vehicles. New York State Police vehicles shared the front spot with vehicles from the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office.
They were followed by a unit of spiffy trash collection vehicles from Twin Bridges Waste and Recycling, a fleet of autos from MJ Engineering and Land Surveying, and fire fighting vehicles from Clifton Park Fire District No. 1, the Jonesville Volunteer Fire Department, the West Crescent Volunteer Fire Department and the Vischer Ferry Volunteer Fire Department.
In between were the highly polished chrome of Chevy Corvettes, Ford Mustangs, antique cars from Jack Byrne Ford, and classic late 1950s American autos.
Once this parade began to move, with its bursts of confetti, recorded music, blaring emergency horns, and yards and yards of red, white, and blue bunting, it moved quickly.
Despite near-perfect weather of full sun and hot temperatures, however, spectators were sparse along the parade route.
Those that did turn out to watch made sure to keep the required six feet apart between non-family members. And though face masks seemed to be seldom worn, they appeared quickly on participants and spectators’ faces whenever the distance closed between groups.
The formal dedication and flag-raising ceremony, which follows the parade was, in keeping with the unusual times, shortened and closed to the public.
Supervisor Philip Barrett led those in attendance in singing the National Anthem. Selected readings from three of the nation’s important documents replaced elected officials’ speeches this year in the abbreviated ceremony.
Members of the Clifton Park Elks Lodge read President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, portions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s, I Have a Dream speech and portions of President Lincoln’s, A Perspective on the Declaration of Independence.
“The parade was a little different this year, but participation was phenomenal,” Barrett said.