“Every six years we go over this,” said fire chief Anthony Bell. “I can speak for this fire department only: This fire department does not parade on Sunday. It’s an unwritten rule, because some firemen go to church, and how can you have something that you need your ministers or chaplains to participate in certain things if they can’t be there.”
The Saugerties Council of Churches isn’t a big fan of Sunday revelry, either. Organizers of the festivities had thought about scheduling events for July 3, but businesses balked, reasoning that
would mean they’d have to be closed all weekend.
Despite some minor disagreements about timing, this year’s Fourth of July should be every bit as good as in the past. The festivities begin with the Firemen’s Inspection on Main Street at 8:30 a.m., with the parade starting at the high school at 11 a.m., winding through the village and ending at Cantine Field on Washington Avenue, where craft and food vendors will be set up through the day and evening. A Battle of the Bands will commence at 4 p.m. at Cantine Field. Fireworks blast off when it gets dark. The firemen handle the parade and the Kiwanis Club organizes the festivities at Cantine Field.
The Fire Department begins planning for the Fourth of July months before the calendar even gets close to summer. Part of the annual celebration is the participation of fire companies from surrounding communities. Bell said that spirit of brotherhood is strong among fire departments.
“Since we’re a fire department, getting another fire department to participate is almost like handing out free ice cream,” he said. “That’s what we do: fight fires and parade. And there is a lot of friendship between fire companies.”
And there’s much more to deciding the order in which the different participants roll through the village streets than simply lining up willy nilly.
“I’ll be honest with you, nobody wants to see 900 straight fire trucks,” Bell said. “You try to stagger it so you don’t see 800 Boy Scout troops together, and with music, you don’t want to have too much at the front and none at the end.”
Senior chief petty officer Raymond Teitter, U.S. Navy, and Village of Saugerties Police chief William Kimble have been named co-marshals.
Line-up for parade participants is slated for one hour before the 11 a.m. kick-off, though the fire department begins its day much earlier. Each year, the village mayor conducts an annual inspection, something Murphy will do for the very first time on Monday.
In addition to the annual display of the giant Garlic Festival balloon, the group will also march with a banner celebrating the Declaration of Independence, with some of its volunteers handing out copies of the seminal document on rolled parchment-like paper to children along the parade route.
Murphy said he’s looking forward to being a part of the parade himself, even running the Market Street gauntlet where a group of local residents offer amusing commentary from beginning to end.
“I expect to get some kind of roasting when I come through,” he said. “They’re friends of mine.”
Murphy’s mayoral predecessor will also be participating in the parade, riding in a large Dutch-style shoe designed by local artist Ze’ev Willy Neumann.
“I had this idea because the town was founded by the Dutch,” said Neumann.
Neumann initially conceived the idea for last year’s parade, but was unable to raise the $1,000 in sponsorship he estimated the float would cost. This year, the funding arrived in a flash.
“This year after the mayor (Yerick) departed (office), they made him a party,” Neumann said. “Lo and behold I took my little Styrofoam model of a shoe. I met a village board member and asked him to introduce me to (HITS President and CEO) Tom Struzzieri. I told him about my intentions to make a shoe for the Fourth of July. He looks at me, said, I’ll give you half. I walked over to another Village Board member and I’m turning my head and looked at this couple as I’m talking about what had happened, and they said they would cover the rest.”
Neumann said the Dutch settlers represented the best of what would become the American spirit.
“In many ways, they’re the ones who established out American attitude,” he said. “They didn’t have any patience for hierarchy, like the British. As long as you come in honestly and do hard work, you’re in business.”
Other local luminaries will also march in the parade, including Town of Saugerties supervisor Greg Helsmoortel, who said the parade is part of what makes the community so special.
“It just continually sets Saugerties apart as being still a hometown, old-fashioned community,” he said. “People unite to celebrate the founding of our country, the red white and blue. And that really doesn’t sound corny at all. I’m proud that I’m able to be a part of it in the capacity that I’m in.”
As with the parade itself, the fireworks and other events planning for the community’s Independence Day celebration begin long before the weather is warm enough for anyone to even think about summer.
Sandi Albelli, who in the past has done most of the Kiwanis work herself, said she was pleased to have a 10-member committee this time around. Even though many of the vendors at Cantine Field return each year, and the Kiwanis uses the same fireworks company every Fourth of July, there are still changes from year to year that organizers have to consider. And as Murphy noted, they’re all volunteers.
“We do a tremendous amount for the community,” Albelli said. “We never look to make a profit. If we break even, that’s fine.”
Albelli said that a few years ago, the Kiwanis had to switch from sponsor-financed fireworks to footing the bill themselves through vendor fees and fundraising. The spectacular display oohed and aahed at by thousands of people cost around $15,000. In case of rain, the Kiwanis are still on the hook for the fireworks, though at a reduced cost.
“There’s no rain date this year, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Albelli said.
Last year’s successful Battle of the Bands will return this year, but not returning for the first time in as long as Albelli can remember is the group which ordinarily provides the carnival rides. Castle Rock Amusements recently joined forces with a management company which had them booked elsewhere this weekend long before the Kiwanis called.