Reporter's notebook: A perfect parade
The thundering Air Force fly-over was missing this year, but Westport's 2010 Memorial Day parade otherwise was perfect!
Last year's Memorial Day parades marked the end of fly-overs cut by Uncle Sam for safety and financial reasons
By the time Westport's 90-minute, 64-unit Memorial Day production marched and rolled by, it appeared only little kids -- asleep in strollers or arms of parents -- and canines exhausted by the heat were the worse for wear.
"God Bless America" emerged as the official parade song. Many of the bands -- and even a fife-and-drum outfit, played the song impressively for those on the reviewing stand.
Particularly effective was a musician aboard the Saugatuck Congregational Church float featuring a model of the historic church's distinctive white steeple. Paused for admiration by those on the reviewing stand, the float came to life when a musician aboard, strumming "God Bless America," invited spectator to sing along.
Among those joining with gusto was First Selectman Gordon Joseloff who "conducted" the impromptu chorus of hundreds by waving his little American flag pole, held in his left hand. He waved it like a baton. In perfect time with the song.
That raised a question among some spectators who light-heartedly joked: "Is Westport's first selectman a closet conductor?"
Foot-tapping music that filled ears during the parade set some toddlers to dancing. The musical entertainment came from nine groups, including Westport school bands, few of which had parade-perfect lines of march.
The most unusual music came from small- to medium-sized boys and girls in a Suzuki School of Music group. The string group predominated by marching violinists included included two cellists bowing like mad in the back of a pickup. There was a practical reason for that -- marching in a parade while bowing a cello is just too difficult.
Among parade eye-openers was a float with an actual Vietnam War-era helicopter.
Perhaps the busiest float featured four superbly physically-fit females pushing pedals. It was the Spin Odyssey float. That outfit sponsors a marathon pedal-pushing event that once a year raises money for breast cancer research.
The gals on the float pushed pedals through the 90-minute parade. They didn't look wilted in the least when they paused at the reviewing stand in front of Town Hall.
The most breath-taking performance before the reviewing stand came from small female gymnasts from the Westport Weston Family Y. Individually they performed multiple handsprings.
The winning float was entered by the Y's Men. It featured a replica of a World War I trench -- complete with live models who appeared dead or bloodied by wounds.
Among early birds setting up chairs across from the reviewing stand around 7 a.m. (the parade started at 9 a.m.) were Jason and Jennifer Chen. They pinned down a good spot to glimpse their children, Staples students, marching with the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) unit.
Son Curtis, 17, and daughter Carolyn, 15, are "giving back to the community," said Dad, a dermatologist.
Dr. Chen works at, among other places, a Veterans Administration hospital on Long Island.
"We all owe so much to the sacrifices made by the veterans," he said. "I am very proud of my teenage children serving with the EMS and riding in the ambulances. They also are learning a lot: to be calm in the presence of chaos."
Among pint-sized parade watchers were the Gold kids -- Alexandra, 5, and Nicholas, 3.
"I really love the Memorial Day parade," Alexandra said.
Brother Nicholas, riding on his dad's shoulders, answered "trucks" when asked what he hoped to see in the parade.
"The fire trucks and ambulances with the sirens and bells," their father, Robert Gold, explained.
Later when the big fire trucks and ambulances -- engines throbbing, lights flashing, bells clanging, sirens wailing, Nicholas waved meekly with one hand.
His other hand was holding tightly onto his Dad's arm like his life depended on that.
Memorial Day Parade float winners:
Theme: "A Salute to "Our Defenders of Freedom"
1. Best Development of a Theme -- Veterans of Foreign War Post 399
2. Best Youth Organization Float -- Boys Scouts of America
3. Most Creative Float -- Andy Knapp, 1965 Huey Helicopter
4. Best Community Organization float -- Saugatuck Congregational Church
5. Most Colorful Float -- Sunday's Farmers
6. Best Overall float -- Y's Men of Westport/Weston