The parade is back!

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 3:30pm

The annual Block Island Fourth of July Parade kicked off, after a year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Grand Marshall was Postmaster Becky Brown and the staff at the U.S. Post Office on Block Island. Numerous island businesses and families participated, giving the judges plenty of options for the prizes. The theme for this year’s parade was Celebrate America, with the Grand Prize going to the Block Island Club for their float celebrating backyard
barbecues. First place in the business division went to Koru Eco Spa, with first place in the family division going to the delightful yellow Volkswagen bug decked out with more flags and streamers than one could count.
The Block Island Volunteer Fire Department led off the parade with volunteer fireman Patrick McNerney behind the wheel of the lead truck, followed by Jack Connell driving the second vehicle, Engine 1. The fire department has five trucks in total on Block Island, and McNerney said this was his second year driving in the parade.
The Second Company, Governor’s Foot Guard, provided color guard duties for the parade, as they have since 1999. According to Lt. Colonel Gary W. Stegina, Second Company is the oldest, continuous military organization in the country. Formed in 1775 in New Haven, CT the unit engaged the British on April 22, 1775 at Cambridge under the leadership of Commandant Benedict Arnold. More recently the company assisted in setting up field hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stegina was joined in the parade by Major Joel Hurliman, Jr. and Captain Michael Hedman.
The Taunton City Band provided marching music as they have done at the Block Island Parade since the 1980s. Sadly, some members say this is the only day they ever get to spend on Block Island.
Pipe Major George Martin led the Taggart Pipes and Drums out of Deep River, CT, who joined with the Mystic Highland Pipe Band, the Sailing Maestros,
and a band of merry pirates to participate in the parade. Martin called them a “mutual” group, meaning they incorporate members from different groups to form a larger contingent for the parade. Martin said this was their twenty-fourth year at the Block Island parade.
The Block Island Parade had its first gay pride float this year, sponsored by Queer Block Island. Austin Morin spoke to The Times about the goals of the organization to create safe spaces for teens and young adults to be themselves. Several local students and teens were participating on the float, and Morin said they hoped to grow and expand in the future with more events. Laurel Nelson added that Queer Block Island seeks to give young people in the community the opportunity to express themselves. Queer Block Island has shirts and stickers available at Persephone’s, Diamond Blue, and Calaveras, and is planning another pride event in the fall.
Former Majorette and summer resident Kim Fischburg delighted the crowd with her expert baton twirling. Fischburg hails from Norwich, CT and says she has noticed a decline in baton twirling, and could not remember seeing it in the Block Island parade. She said she wanted to bring baton-twirling back and hoped to inspire kids to “Be who you are!”

Block Island’s American Legion, Post 36, was well represented with marchers and a couple of well-decorated vehicles, joined in top form by the Ladies Auxiliary.
The parade wound its way from New Harbor, down Ocean Avenue to Water Street, completing its trek at the statue of Rebecca. The wild cheering of the crowd only intensified with each successive float, with throngs of onlookers lining the streets and watching from every available porch, deck and window. After a year away, the Block Island Fourth of July Parade made quite a procession and was thoroughly enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.