Parade celebrates Portsmouth's 375th
PORTSMOUTH — The rain held off and the 375th Grand Parade — led by its grand marshall, dairy farmer Louis Escobar — was cheered on by hundreds of local residents as it made its way down East Main Road and Turnpike Avenue Saturday morning.
Parade-goers were treated to the Portsmouth High School Marching Band, Navy Band Northeast, Miss Rhode Island, the “kissing sailor” George Mendonsa, many floats, various community organizations and local, state and federal officials.
“I was surprised by how many people showed up,” said Gary Gump of the Portsmouth 375th Steering Committee. “I thought it was a great opportunity to showcase our town to all the people. I think because we were able to get a little visibility with our theme, ‘The British Are Coming,’ that it really clicked. It brought a lot of people out.”
Besides the smaller high school homecoming parade that’s held annually, “We haven’t had a parade in Portsmouth for 25 years,” said Mr. Gump, referring to the 350th celebration in 1988. “The volunteers who ran the parade, they were just terrific. They did an outstanding job. And because we had an opportunity for people to showcase their cars, we had enough for our dignitaries.”
One of those was Kenneth Wright, mayor of Portsmouth, Va. He was one of three Portsmouth mayors who were the town’s guests this weekend, the others being Councillor Lynne Stagg, the lord mayor of Portsmouth, England; and Eric Spear of Portsmouth, N.H.
“I have had a wonderful time here,” said Mr. Wright. “This has been well done. The 375th Committee needs to be commended by everyone in town. The lord mayor and I were talking at breakfast — we’re staying over at the Escobar Inn — about how great it’s been done. These people won’t let us lift a finger. I take my hat off to them and I appreciate the invitation. I love your city."