The American Legions of Middlebury and Vergennes are each holding Memorial Day parades this year, and Bristol is planning a Fourth of July parade. The Middlebury parade will begin at 9 a.m., while the Vergennes parade will begin at 11 a.m. The timing is coordinated so that people are able to participate in both parades.
The American Legion is a Veterans Organization chartered by Congress in 1919. Its mission is “to enhance the well-being of America's veterans, their families, our military, and our communities by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.” Generally, they do so by fighting for increased assistance for veterans, encouraging patriotic acts such as the preservation of memorials and parades, and assisting veterans in their transitions to civilization life.
The Vergennes parade has historically been the largest Memorial Day Parade in Vermont, according to The Addison County Independent. This year, its theme is “Home of the Free, because of the Brave,” and it aims to appeal to both veterans and the broader community. The event will run over a 1.5 mile course.
The Vergennes Police Department does not allow candy to be thrown from moving floats due to safety concerns, but people can walk alongside floats and hand it out, according to the town of Vergennes website.
The Middlebury parade has historically had several marching bands, bagpipers, floats and marchers. The procession will begin behind the College’s Mahaney Arts Center, and will finish with a more solemn ceremony at the Soldier's Monument on Merchants row.
While still festive, both the Middlebury and Vergennes parades have struck a fairly serious tone in remembrance of lost lives in previous years, according to The Addison Independent and WCAX. This year, though, the Vergennes parade will not have a formal remembrance.
The parades will be fairly open, with many people able to participate, open attendance and a dog-friendly policy.
For many, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. For Middlebury College students, the summer season will truly be kicking off, with residence halls closing on Wednesday, May 25, and Sunday, May 29, for non-seniors and graduating students, respectively.
Bristol’s Fourth of July parade, which will also include fireworks the night before and activities throughout the day, has a theme this year: “We’re Back! Unmasked, and with the Best Parade Ever!,” Ted Lylis, a parade committee member and former Republican representative to the Bristol Selectboard, told The Addison Independent. The Bristol parade claims to be the oldest running parade in Vermont.
The festivities revolve around floats made by community members, while the activities and booths rely on enthusiastic parade-goers and local vendors and businesses.
One of the day’s trademark events is the Outhouse Race, where teams of two compete, pulling a third member sitting in an outhouse frame on wheels, along a roughly 500-foot course.
Typically there are four heats, a final and a prize for the best decorated outhouse. Parade-goers can bet on the heats and final by purchasing $1 tickets. One winner is picked from each heat to earn a $2 prize, while the winner chosen from winning bets in the final receives $75. The rest of the funds raised go to the next year’s parade and Fourth of July celebration.
There is also a traditional 5K road race held in the early morning, for those looking to get a jump on the day’s festivities.