Westport — A steam heat Fourth celebration
The heat took its toll on a spectator or two and a handful of vehicles but otherwise Westport's Fourth of July parade weathered a change of route and new organizing crew.
A bumper crop of floats, tractors and fire engines by the dozen and marchers serious and silly made their way up Main Road from Hix Bridge Road to the high school in blistering heat — one fire vehicle's outside thermometer hit 90 degrees by 11:15 a.m.
That was too much for a police department Humvee which dropped out. Two old cars and a couple of motorcycles also succumbed but one of the jalopies benefitted from a bit of rest and rejoined the order of march.
One breakdown caused a change in plans for parade Grand Marshal Tobin Medeiros, a Marine Corps veteran from Westport who was wounded in Iraq. When the car that he was supposed to ride in refused to start, he rode instead aboard a veterans' float.
Rescuers also tended to a woman who was overcome by heat but was said to be doing fine after a cool down. The Fire Department responded to 11 calls overall on the Fourth, mostly medical and accidents, but only one was related to parade heat.
"Absolutely ecstatic," was how parade chairman David Palmer described his feelings 24 hours later after organizing his first parade.
"Everybody looked happy, nobody got hurt, things moved along well — a success I'd say," Mr. Palmer said. He added that he heard later about tragedies at two other parades — "I feel so badly for them — the main thing is that you want everybody to be safe and have fun."
He credited the help of "a phenomenal group of volunteers who really stepped up to make this work."
And he thanked the Fire Department's Dan Ledoux who had organized the parade for a dozen years before stepping aside this year.
"Dan got the first dozen vehicles going and then stepped back into the shade and watched," Mr. Palmer said. "It was very good knowing that he was right there …"
Later at the high school where the parade wrapped up, the new parade committee presented Mr. Ledoux with a clock in appreciation for his efforts.
Tractors were as abundant as usual but the ranks of old cars were thinner than other years, some perhaps having been scared off by the heat — old cars, slow travel and high heat are a troublesome combination. Many of the cars that did come were brought by members of Westport's Blue Angels Car Club.
But the floats were unusually abundant and creative. Grum's Family Restaurant of Westport assembled a restaurant scene on a trailer, complete with grill, chef, waitress and dining customer — the float was judged the parade's best.
Throughout the parade, organizers on four golf carts went up and down the route to make sure everything was going smoothly and to hand out cold water — "We went through almost all of it, cases and cases of water," Mr. Palmer said.
Rules adopted in recent years forbid the spraying of water, Silly String — anything that could injure an eye. Most seemed to abide by that rule.
But some traditions don't die easily. Also prohibited is the tossing of candy from vehicles or floats to prevent youngsters from running out into the path of a car or truck. Despite the ban, candy tossing was rampant — even several selectmen and veterans participated.
And the winners are …
At the end of the parade, the judges had trophies to hand out.
1. Grums Family Restaurant
2. Westport Girls Softball (Kevin DeMello)
23. Noelle Bryon
1. Mitchell Morin's Ford woodie
2. Clint Lawton's Chevy Malibu
1. John Cabral
2. Bill Cabral
1. John Evengelho (large yellow tractor)