WOONSOCKET — As the fog burned off to make way for sunny skies and the temperature rose out of the 40s on Monday morning, anticipation was running high at the staging areas on Diamond Hill Road for those marching, riding and “floating” in the 35th annual Autumnfest parade.
High school bands, local businesses and politicians from across the state, congregated to get their marching orders before the 9:30 a.m. procession stepped off.
The Dance Company dancers, all 50 of them, swarmed around their white and silver float titled “The Power of a Dream,” chatting and anxiously waiting to be called into their place in the parade. Heidi Smith said the troupe from Blackstone, Mass., was excited to be involved in the Autumnfest tradition and couldn’t wait to get moving.
Just up the road, The R.I. Athletic Club, which makes its home on Social Street in the city, was also set to join the march, giddy from their win the day before in the Mega War, tug-of-war contest at Veterans Memorial Park.
Bobo The Clown entertained some of the youngsters with balloon animals before the parade began. Burrillville, Mount St. Charles, Woonsocket High School and many other school bands from the Blackstone Valley tuned up and warmed up as more parade participants arrived including a troupe of cheerleaders from Superior Cheer, The Shriners, the Knights of Columbus, veterans groups and firefighters commanding fire trucks.
Then the signal was given and the controlled chaos at the staging area quickly became an orderly march.
Banners representing many local businesses including Navigant Credit Union, CVS, Nolan Electric, and The Lodge Pub and Eatery in Lincoln, moved into line as the parade began, slowly traveling down Diamond Hill Road.
Classic cars and shiny new vehicles, some supplied by Simon Chevrolet, rolled past spectators.
The Autumnfest parade boasts one of the largest contingents of high school marching bands of any parade in the region, and the numerous floats, decorated with themes spanning everything from a Christmas scene, to a tropical paradise, brought smiles to the faces of the hundreds of parade-watchers who lined the streets.
Dave Richards of WOON radio, who was this year’s grand marshal, was overseeing the parade from the main viewing stand where other local dignitaries were also seated.
The parade meshed old and new together even including the more historic Yankee Volunteer Fife and Drum corps from Seekonk, Mass., playing flutes and firing muskets into the air.
Unfortunately, the National Guard did not participate Monday, one of the casualties of the government shutdown, but that didn’t put a damper on the high spirits of all who were involved on Monday.
The parade is the highlight of the Autumnfest celebration that includes entertainment, rides, a food court and the popular beer tent at the city’s downtown park.