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At age 10, Fourth of July parade well established.

Byline: George Barnes

PETERSHAM - Beth Cummings sat on the scooter she had just driven in the Fourth of July parade, watched Mike Hannabury read from the Bill of Rights and reflected on how much the celebration of the nation's founding has grown in the 10 years since she and the late Delight Haines founded it.

"It makes me want to cry," she said, looking around the town Common packed with families gathered for the celebration.

The parade was started as a way to teach children about the meaning of the Fourth of July, the date that marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It has become an entertaining event for all ages, with horse riders, antique vehicles, firetrucks, police cruisers and always a few surprises.

Mrs. Cummings did not so much drive in the parade as ride herd on the other participants, racing up and down the parade route, giving orders to start and stop and making sure each vehicle or participant was in place.

Many parades have bands, but the Petersham Fourth of July parade had the Fiddling Lasses. The Petersham group of seven girls and their adult leader rode in a flatbed playing their cellos and violins.

There were also pirates along the route, including Davy Jones, representing the Petersham Lions Club.

And there were antique vehicles of almost every year except the present.

In a 1916 Ford car was Roger Bryant, a former Petersham resident who is now from Templeton. Mr. Bryant had been a mainstay of the parade over the years, often riding high-wheel antique bicycles. He missed last year after suffering a stroke. This year his health kept him on four wheels, but still in the parade, riding with Jesse Cole of Petersham.

Mr. Cole said he has owned the antique car he was driving for four years and believes its relatively unblemished paint is the original paint. The car was brought here from Indiana.

In the parade as well were two 1929 Petersham firetrucks. Gilbert King Jr. was driving truck No. 1, which he said was originally with the department, passed to private hands and eventually was returned and restored. He was joined in the firetruck by young Shea Mallet. The other truck was a Plotkin Furniture delivery truck the Fire Department turned into a firetruck in the 1930s.

A few hundred onlookers lined the mile-long route known as the "Old Maids Mile a Muster." The route is what school teachers used to take for afternoon walks.

When Mrs. Cummings and the late Mrs. Haines, a town historian and former librarian, decided to take Mrs. Cummings' grandchildren for a stroll on Independence Day in 1997 to teach them about the importance of the day, they took the same route. That year as they walked along, they were joined by people they encountered along the way and the parade was born.

In most years, horses have been a major part of the parade, and right behind the police cruiser this year was Margo Petracone of Barre Mounted Search and Rescue, who was riding and carrying an American flag.

Ms. Petracone was riding one of about a dozen horses in the parade. Among those was Debit, a year-old horse led by Heather Pierce, who was riding an adult horse.

Among those watching the parade was long-time news correspondent and historian Ruth Bassingthwaite, who shouted encouragement to residents as they drove, rode and walked by.

For the many children watching the parade, the bonus was that from every vehicle and float, handfuls of candy were thrown their way. As the candy flew to the ground, they scrambled out into the road, collecting as much as they could before the next vehicle or horse came along.

The parade began at Mrs. Cummings' home on West Street and ended at the town Common, where confetti fireworks were launched and Mr. Hannabury, dressed as Uncle Sam, recited the Bill of Rights. Music followed on the town bandstand by the country and western group Swift Kicks.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 5, 2007
Previous Article:REGIONAL DIGEST.
Next Article:Late-morning fire badly damages house.

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