Not everybody can be in a parade then watch as the whole thing passes by, but we did just that on a sparkling clear spring day last weekend.
My husband and I had the honor of being parade marshals for the Chester On Track day-long celebration in my Berkshires hometown, Chester, Mass., which recalls the town’s railroad heritage each May.
As Grand Marshals, we got to ride in a beautifully restored red and cream 1955 Chevrolet BelAir convertible owned and driven by Curtis Bush. Once our gracious driver and host got us settled in the back seat of his car, he was a font of information, updating us on everything new happening in town.
The parade was wonderfully well organized with each contingent directed to a different part of the area where the parade was preparing for step-off. While we were waiting, many of the town officials we knew and even their state representative stopped by to chat. It was literally like old home week.
When the parade shaped up to take off, we found ourselves first in line behind the military color guard as we moved up Route 20 to the town proper. Turning the corner onto Main Street, we were amazed to see all the people lining the way, even standing or sitting on the town bridge over the Westfield River.
My husband spotted our son from Shrewsbury, Mass., in the crowd on the bridge as we passed. We hadn’t expected any of our family to make the trip so were surprised.
People had teased me about practicing “The Queen’s Wave” but that was too remote and I knew too many people there. So I ended up waving enthusiastically toward both sides of the car. Talk about emotional overload! It was so hard just to take it all in.
When we reached the end of the parade, Curtis turned into Maple Street and backed around so we could watch the rest of the parade as it passed. Local children’s groups like Boy Scouts and Little Leaguers, the Regional High School Band, Civil War re-enactors, town dignitaries and service groups, recent war veterans, the Shriners darting in and out on their tiny cars, and clowns on stilts and with funny props went by.
Then came a huge contingent of vintage classic cars, all polished up for the occasion, which detoured at parade’s end to line up behind our car for closeup viewing the rest of the day. They were followed by a group of “garden tractors” which would compete in a later tractor pull event, and finally several fire trucks and emergency equipment from hill town fire departments.
For such a small town, it was a very big parade! And we were excited to be part of it.
Later Curtis took us back to the staging area to pick up our own car and we returned to town and met several of our family members at the historic Railway Station. The Blue Caboose, adjacent to the Station, was serving a “Hobo Lunch” with beef stew, chili, and mac and cheese on the menu. They also featured grilled hot dogs with baked potato chips which I chose.
Our sons ventured down to the ball field nearby to watch the tractor pulls and police K-9 demonstrations. They ate smoked ribs from an operation which had set up there for the day.
Our daughter-in-law and granddaughter stayed with us at the railroad station/museum to check out photos and references to my father who was a fireman and later engineer on the steam pusher locomotives in his day. My husband liked sitting on the station’s porch and watching real CSX freight trains pass by close up.
If we could walk better, we would have taken a jaunt back along Main Street where neatly painted buildings sported red, white and blue bunting, local restaurants were open, information booths were set up, and vendors were selling their wares. We also wanted to visit the public library and see its famous gem collection. But we ran out of time.
No matter. It all seemed straight out of a classic Norman Rockwell version of small town America and one we will never forget.