It was 30 years ago that town clerk Louis Cirillo first experienced Bristol’s Fourth of July parade as a town official. This year he will experience the country’s oldest Fourth of July celebration by leading the 228th parade as its chief marshal.Mr. Cirillo sat among family, friends and colleagues during the Fourth of July committee meeting on Wednesday night, not to act as the facilitator or secretary, as he often does at meetings in his official capacity as town clerk, but to graciously accept the time honored tradition enjoyed by statesmen, leaders of industry and others notable people who have led the oldest Fourth of July celebration in America.
Over the years, Mr. Cirillo has participated in the town’s annual tradition in a variety of roles – by administering the oath to over 100 law enforcement professionals who maintain order during the parade, as speaker at the Interfaith service and as speaker at the Memorial Day activities.
“I thought I might be a speaker, because I speak,” Mr. Cirillo said. (Chief marshal) wasn’t really something that I thought about.”
General chairman, Dick Devault, introduced his selection to the audience.
“Last year I pointed out that there are many people who warrant selection as chief marshal,” Mr. Devault said. “Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, I will not be general chairman enough years to have the honor of selecting them all. This year I invited an individual whose commitment and service to the community is extensive and well known. In my experience he exhibits one of my favorite management approaches; the answer is yes. That is, he is always willing and ready to assist and help if it is all possible.”
Besides serving the community, Mr. Devault spoke of the many reasons why Mr. Cirillo deserves the honor of chief marshal.
“The 228th chief marshal has traveled to many places in the world for both business and pleasure and declares adamantly that he would never wish to live anywhere but in Bristol. He has spent all of his life and most of his career in this town and has lived, more-or-less, in an area encompassing just a few blocks his entire life. He is a sixth-generation Bristolian whose great-great-great grandfather served in the Civil War from Bristol and whose name, James Lowery, is listed on the stone plaque in this room. I’m honored and pleased to present the chief marshal for the 228th celebration, Louis P. Cirillo.”
Mr. Cirillo humbly accepted the honor to great applause and thought about when Mr. Devault first asked him in private.
“I think of some incredible people who have had this honor,” Mr. Cirillo said. “I questioned myself as to whether or not I deserved it.”
He admitted that the fleeting doubt quickly passed, and he wondered how to break the exciting news to his wife, Susan.
When he saw her he asked: “Guess who’s going to be the chief marshal?”
He hinted by pointing to himself.
“We really had to talk it over,” Mrs. Cirillo said. “That took a good three minutes.”
Growing up in Bristol, Mr. Cirillo, like most Bristolians, uses the July 4 date as guide for other activities. He remembered as a child, it was the time when your new white sneakers could come out of the box. As an adult, it means time to spruce up the yard or give the house a fresh coat of paint, helping to make the town as inviting as possible for the throng of guests who will visit if just for the day.
“For us, it’s never been about us, it’s about sharing with other people,” Mr. Cirillo said.
And this honor, too, will be shared among the Cirillo’s many friends and family members who will serve as aides.
In the days leading up to Wednesday’s announcement, Mr. Cirillo said that his staff at town hall were speculating that he would be named.
“They asked if they should clear their schedules for Wednesday night,” Mr. Cirillo said.
Sworn to secrecy, Mr. Cirillo would neither confirm nor deny their accurate claims.
“This was the most difficult secret I ever had to keep,” Mr. Cirillo said.
Once Mr. Cirrillo secretly accepted the invitation from Mr. Devault, the Cirillos have been adding a few extra steps to their weekly walks in preparation for the two-and-a-half mile parade route. While there will be additional parties, events and appearances that the chief marshal, his wife and aides will enjoy this year, on the Fourth, the Cirillo family will still have their annual family gathering.
“Someone else will have to do the cooking,” Mrs. Cirillo said.
Town clerk Lou Cirillo will join the growing list of dignitaries who have led Bristol’s Fourth of July parade as its chief marshal. Among them in recent years are:
2000 – Anthony P. Iasiello
2001 – Diane C. Mederos
2002 – Jerome Donovan
2003 – Raymond Cordeiro and Oryann Lima
2004 – Joseph and Mary Lero
2005 – Russell S. Serpa
2006 – Santa “Sandy” Matrone
2007 – Manuel C. “Manny” Correira
2008 – Edward Castro
2009 – Joseph Coelho, Sr./Joseph Coelho, Jr.
2010 – S. Dudley Hallagan
2011 – Joseph and Betty Brito, Jr.
2012 – Antonio Teixeira