FREETOWN — Under sunny, cloud-free skies, with temperatures hovering comfortably in mid 70s, organizers, marchers, and spectators of this year’s Freetown 4th of July Parade couldn’t have asked for a better day to celebrate our country’s 241st birthday.
By 8 a.m., spectators were already lining the parade route which ran through South Main Street into old Assonet center to identify perfect vantage points to view the grand procession.
The parade, which started promptly at 10 a.m., went off without a hitch. Hundreds of well-wishers lined the parade route. Many of the marchers handed out candy to the kids. All across town, homeowners decorated their homes with bunting. American flags seemed to be everywhere.
School Committee member Jean Fox, who was resplendent in a patriotic red, white, and blue dress, was excited about the variety of marchers in this year’s celebration.
“We have 53 spots filled this year,” she said. “We’ve got everything from scouts, a float that was a Model of the Lazy A driving range, lots of veteran’s groups, and this year we even have Miss Massachusetts who is from our area.
“We had such a gorgeous night last night for the fireworks. I think we had more people than ever. This town always seems to come together like a well-oiled machine. This may be our biggest parade ever.”
One of the main themes this year, and at every 4th of July celebration in Freetown, is love of our country and the town’s multicultural heritage and communities, like the Cape Verdean community that lives on Braley Road. Three third graders were also honored by the town for writing essays about its history.
A about the town’s history is taught to every 3rd grader at the Freetown Elementary School so each student can know something about where they come from and currently live.
“We’re particularly proud of this. We have a long multi-cultural heritage even though we are small,” said Fox.
Seeing Jillian Zucco of Mattapoisett, the newly crowned Miss Massachusetts, thrilled the throngs.
This year’s honorary Grand Marshall of the Parade was Teddy Walsh, who’s been employed by the highway department over 40 years. Walsh, who’s hearing impaired, appreciated sight of the town, bedecked in red, white, and blue bunting, and the gratitude shown by his town for his service to the community.
The vehicles in the parade represented the full spectrum of automotive history. There were perhaps a dozen antique tractors, reflecting the area’s agricultural heritage. The oldest car was a perfectly restored Model-T and one of the newest was a sporty red Polaris, a two-seat three-wheeled convertible designed for open road highway travel.
There were contingents of marchers from surrounding communities, including Lakeville, Fall River, and Dartmouth. The Dartmouth Militia honored our Revolutionary War veterans — and there were veteran who served in our most recent conflagrations.
Many t-shirts designed by Freetown Elementary School student 4th grader Shelby Estrella were being worn by parade attendees.
One of the most difficult jobs this year was judging this year’s best float. For the first time in many years, organizers had squirrelled away enough money to award cash prizes of $300, $200, and $100 for first, second, and third place. A little cash incentive seemed to bring out the best of those who had entered their creations in the contest.
“I am looking for the floats that had a ‘Wow Factor’,” said Mike McCue, the town moderator who also served as one of the judges. McCue and the other judges had plenty of choices. There were 10 deserving entries in this year’s contest.
Freetown Historical Society, with its covered wagon display, “wowed” and won first prize.
“This is such a beautiful festive day to celebrate our nation’s birth," selectman Bob Jose said. "This parade always brings our town together and I’m glad that this parade is a constant."