To the editor,
As visitors from “Away,” my husband and I enjoyed participating in Summerside’s Lobster Festival.
We come from Willimantic, Connecticut, an old textile mill town that has seen better days and shares many of the same problems plaguing Summerside. One major success is our annual July 4 “Boombox Parade,” a huge community event for more than 25 years. It started when no bands were available for the town’s Independence Day parade. The local radio station, took the lead and encouraged all participants and onlookers to bring boombox radios to the parade so they could play loud marching music broadcast by the station. Anyone in town who wishes to march is encouraged to do so, bringing together local businesses, community and service groups, politicians, families and individuals. All are welcome. No registration is required. Creativity is encouraged. Our town recreation department co-ordinates the line up on parade day.
Summerside might wish to consider our lessons learned:
– By being inclusive, observers learn about the services, businesses, clubs, organizations in town. The best decorated floats get the most recognition. Groups can hand out contact information to the crowd as they march along.
– The parade occurs on a holiday, not a work day, so more people can attend and participate.
– We celebrate the diversity of our community.
– There are few rules. Only recently throwing candy in the road was limited, as well as soaking the crowd with super soakers, and revving car engines, for safety reasons.
– It brings visibility and recognition to the downtown area. The parade marches down Main Street, which has suffered due to the expansion of shopping malls away from the downtown area. Yankee Magazine showcased our town in an article because of our unique parade. Many out of town/state visitors make a point of visiting specifically for this event.
– It is fun! Families and groups can march together as they see fit. Many groups make this an annual event.
The parade annually attracts more than 5,000 spectators and has expanded to more than 1 1/2 hours long.
We look forward to Summerside’s Lobster Festival and parade next year.
Devon Ann Conover
North Carleton, P.E.I.
Windham (Willimantic), CT