Gail Zappone Every year I gain energy from the parade. In Southamptonon the 4th of July the festivities begin around10:15, but I’m not always on time.
As I approachMain Street, the sound of the crowd rises and then I feel it. The vibration of the drums in the Marching Band goes right through me. It always catches me off guard, but somehow this year I feel it even more. I notice it – what it does to me. It’s like a bolt of energy has just gone through me. I smile with this awareness, pick up the pace and rush to the corner to get a better view. Everyone is flashing a big smile. It’s like one big happy family. I see people I haven’t seen in months. I catch a few eyes and wave and say a few things. ”How you dooo’in?” You can try to carry on a conversation, but it’s impossible. So you move on and bump into somebody else you know. It’s such a great feeling, a sense of knowing and being known. You say to yourself, “Hey, I belong”.
I can never stay in one place for long. To me the parade is not only a spectator sport, it’s an activity. So I walk up and down the street catching the parade on one side of me and watching the various ethnic and church groups collecting at their favorite spots along the route on the other. I stop to see the moms holding their babies, the little kids seeing the spectacle with a really fresh set of eyes and I try to absorb it with what I think is their view and become a kid again. Only, to be honest, I never really had this kind of a parade to go to in my neighborhood inQueens. I lived in a suburb ofFlushingand we would set firecrackers off during the day and sparklers at night, and if we were lucky, we’d go toRockawayBeachwith neighbors to see the fireworks display at night, which could be pretty spectacular. But, for many years I have witnessed the uniqueness of the Southampton Parade. First I watched as a summer resident visiting with girlfriends. Then I went with my husband, whose family had a summer cottage onShinnicockBay, and later with our kids as they grew up. Now for the past 6 years we’ve lived out here in that same summer cottage – finally winterized with a few more renovations. Sometimes I go with the whole family. Other times I go with just my husband. But there are times when my husband and I meet up at the parade if we have a bunch of things to do after the parade. I used to take pictures every year and saw that each year I would have many of the same ones of fire trucks and bagpipe players and floats. But the authentic pictures are mostly close ups of the kids or special outfits of some of the people in the parade. Now that I have all these pictures I really just love to drink it all in, grin from ear to ear, and sway to the music or hum along to a patriotic song. It’s the greatest feeling.
One year I was actually in the parade. We had a small group of dedicated people, including some high school students who wanted to promote the “Greening of Southampton”. So, I got a behind –the-scenes view. The parade groups were given numbers and stood in formation, waiting, waiting and waiting some more. It was a hotter day than this year and people were beginning to do some serious sweating. The kids were growing impatient for their group to move out. But once we did, we felt the excitement of being part of something big – as small as we were, we blended right in. The music from the band in front of us helped us keep the beat as we stretched into our best posture. (cont’d)
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It feels like I’ll always be doing this 4th of July parade, forever and ever – that’s how good it feels. For one brief moment there’s no Conservatives or Liberals. There’s no Democrats or Republicans, just one happy group of people proud to be American, proud of the soldiers through time who have fought for our freedom, proud to just be there on this beautiful day.
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