Marching bands from across the state were spread throughout the length of the parade, their music complemented by bands on floats and the speakers used by dancers who twirled and flipped while walking down the streets. Between them were trucks covered in banners decorated by students of local elementary schools.
Greg Landes’ daughter Kassandra Landes, 8, spent a few hours on Saturday with her fellow Hatton School students preparing the decorations for their float.
“Oh, they love it. They’re so excited,” Greg Landes said as he stood next to the float, which was covered in police tape, and children wrapped thick as mummies in the tape. “I still get excited,” Landes said.
Marching behind Hatton School’s float were members and cadets of the Civil Air Patrol, which sought to bring the work they do to the forefront.
“It’s amazing to be a part of this team,” said Cadet 2nd Lt. Fernando Luis Vasconcellos. While he said some of his fellow cadets may not complete the program or stay in the patrol, engaging with the community in parades and through their training will stick with them.
“I’m just happy they came out here to give their time,” said Vasconcellos. “I’m proud of them.”
Parade Chairwoman Joanne Salerno estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people participated in the parade, with 67 organizations sending floats, vehicles or marchers. Salerno felt the work she put into the parade had paid off, estimating that over 50,000 people lined the streets and came to the festival on Sunday.
The parade began on Summer Street, near the intersection with West Main Street. It then snaked down West Center Street, turning onto South Center Street and squeezing between the crowds on Center Street and in the middle of the festival on Main Street.
Salerno said she believes it’s the variety in the parade and festival which brings so many people to Southington. Every year she finds new groups to invite to the parade and new rides and food for viewers to enjoy afterward at the festival.
“We have so much to offer,” Salerno said. This year’s parade was especially important to her so she could drum up excitement for next year’s parade, which will be the 50th year for the festival.
“They offer every food imaginable …There’s something for everybody,” said Dr. Stacey Raya, who owns Raya Clinic, a chiropractic office in Southington.
Raya said she’s opened a booth for 27 years at the festival, always trying to get as close to the street as possible so she could see the parade pass from her tent. She also had a front-line view of the apple fritter line, already blocks long down North Center Street.
“It brings everybody together,” said Debbie O’Keefe, whose daughter and daughter-in-law were in the parade.
“It’s part of Southington. It’s part of our tradition,” said O’Keefe. A tradition she said has been passed to the town’s children “and now our grandchildren.”