This week, I’m recalling memories of Independence Day. On July 4, 2008, my friend Terry Morrow and I were chasing Paris Hilton around Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge. Exactly one year later, he told me he had pancreatic cancer. Terry died on April 16, 2013.
When I spoke with Terry on the phone on July 4, 2009, I was on vacation in the Village of Saugerties, New York. He would have loved the party my wife and I attended during the 4th of July parade. We were not at the official reviewing stand on Main Street, but farther down the parade route at a private home on Market Street. Since 1989, Greg DeCelle and his extended family have provided their own parade commentary during a beer-fueled block party that started well before the parade arrived at their house and continued until the fourth keg was emptied, long after the parade was gone.
Each year the DeCelles choose a parade theme of their own. In the past they’ve been cowboys or pirates, for example. Last year they dressed in superhero costumes. This year they dressed as “Star Wars” characters. Greg, the homeowner and ringleader, was in an Obi-Wan Kenobi outfit. His fellow commentators were Chewbacca and Darth Vader. Obi-Wan and Chewbacca were on a platform with audio equipment and two computers loaded with music and sound effects. Darth Vader stood on the street with a wireless microphone.
Some politicians, including Rep. Maurice Hinchey, looked uncomfortable as they walked past with forced smiles, waving as they went. Others embraced the insanity and spoke with Darth Vader on the microphone. I found out later the ones who walked by fast were possibly the same ones who couldn’t answer any of the questions about the Constitution that the DeCelles posed to them in previous years.
Each of the passing firetrucks was exhorted to sound their horn. Some played along right away. Others had to be repeatedly goaded. I like parade balloons as much as anybody but the inflatable Quisp head being used to promote the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival needs to be replaced with a new one.
Whenever there was a slight break in the parade, Obi-Wan would announce that it was time for the Chicken Dance. Spectators spilled out into the street to flap their elbows and wiggle their bottoms, with Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper leading the way.
Darth tried to interact with several of the parade entries, none more successfully than an equestrian unit. The family recognized a woman riding her horse in the parade. As she approached, one of them announced that a beer was to be brought to the street. The rider dismounted, accepted the cup and let Darth Vader climb onto her horse. It looked more “Spaceballs” than “Star Wars.”
When a the driver of a private vehicle cut into the parade route, the fans on Market Street covered his vehicle with Silly String. They also sprayed a firetruck whose rider dared shoot some water from a fire extinguisher. Apparently this was mild compared to a few years ago when a similar exchange erupted into a full-blown water fight with a garden hose and water balloons. I heard they had to promise the Village not to do that again.