Andy Hyde, of Glocester, taunts the crowd as one of the trolls on the Ken Hopkins and Friends float during the 2011 event. File photo/Ernest A. Brown
GLOCESTER â€“ There will be an 87th July 4th Ancients and Horribles Parade in Glocester this year thanks to Michael L. DeGrange and dozens of other residents who have answered the townâ€™s call for help.
DeGrange, who has a long history of community service and volunteerism, has agreed to chair the Ancients and Horribles Parade Committee, which just a couple of weeks ago nearly disbanded because there were not enough members to hold a legal meeting.
Not only is there a new parade committee chairman, but the committee itself is at full compliment with all nine voting members on board ready to make this yearâ€™s parade â€“ now seven weeks away - one of the best.
As late as yesterday, residents were still calling or stopping by the Town Hall to offer their assistance,
â€śThere will be a parade this July,â€ť said an elated Town Clerk Jean M. Fecteau.
The parade, which attracts thousands of spectators to Chepachet every Fourth of July, first wound its way down Main Street in 1927. It has been held each and every year since. The parade features traditional Fourth of July floats and marchers, such as veterans and fire trucks, as well as irreverent and satirical displays commenting on political and cultural issues, as local residents and costumed marchers parody news and cultural events.
The 87th installment of the famous parade was on life support two weeks ago when Fecteau warned that a lack of leadership and volunteers could force the cancellation of the parade for the first time in 86 years.
The parade committee, which organizes and oversees all parade-related activities such as fireworks, fundraising, grants, vendors, and bands, was led for many years by Connie Leathers, but she moved out-of-state after the 2011 parade following several years at the helm. Last year, two volunteers took over the role of co-chairing the parade committee in order to prevent its demise, but they did so with the understanding that someone else would do it this year.
This year, however, there werenâ€™t even enough members on Parade Committee to hold a legal meeting. The Parade Committee includes nine voting members; one alternate voting member; and unlimited ad hoc non-voting members.
But Fecteauâ€™s call for help did not go unanswered and sheâ€™s been fielding calls daily from people who want to get involved.
When she called an emergency meeting of the Parade Committee last Thursday, more than 30 people showed up looking to help out and work with DeGrange, who has agreed to lead the committee as its chairman.
â€śMike is a young, energetic guy who really wants to help,â€ť said Fecteau, adding that DeGrange is just the person the Parade Committee needs to get things moving over the next several weeks.
DeGrange, a former member of the Glocester Planning Board and Economic Development Committee, was elected last year to fill a seat on the Town Council vacated by Jamie Hainsworth. A senior systems analyst by trade, DeGrange is president of the Fogarty Memorial School PTO and an active member of the Knights of Columbus. He is also a former leader of the Cub Scout Den 1, Pack 1, and a coach with the Burrillville Glocester Youth Soccer Association.
â€śAre we out of the woods this year? Yes. There will be a parade in July,â€ť said DeGrange. â€śAre we completely out of the woods? No. To make sure we can sustain the parade every year we need to energize the community. My challenge to everyone is that if you really love this parade, then get involved every year.â€ť
DeGrange says one of his goals as chairman is to do more volunteer outreach and parade fundraisers and find corporate sponsors and donors that can help sustain the parade from one year to the next. He says heâ€™s also working to see if there is a possibility of bringing back the fireworks to parade day.
â€śPersonally, I grew up loving the Fourth of July fireworks in Glocester so itâ€™s something Iâ€™d like to bring back if we can find the funding,â€ť he said.
Fecteau says the Parade Committee will be meeting weekly because there is so much work to do in such a short time. The parade is scheduled to be held in seven weeks.
â€śThereâ€™s a lot to do, but I think we can catch up,â€ť says Fecteau, adding that DeGrange and his wife, Mary-Beth, are already hard at work lining up vendors for the parade.
â€śMy goal and the goal of the Town Council is to have a parade this year,â€ť she said. â€śIt may be a smaller parade, but there will be a parade. And we want to make sure there are parades every year thereafter.â€ť
For more information on how to help, contact the Fecteauâ€™s office at 568-6206 ext. 0.