‘Community’ Defines Event: Residents Gather for Annual Thetford Labor Day Parade
Eva Barta, 10, of Lyme, N.H. chews candy on the Thetford Riding Academy float during the annual Thetford Labor Day parade in Post Mills, Vt. on September 2, 2013. The parade was followed by a BBQ chicken fundraiser for the Thetford Volunteer Fire Department. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
A group of musicians plays on the Thetford Elder Network float during the annual Thetford Labor Day parade in Post Mills, Vt. on September 2, 2013. The parade was followed by a BBQ chicken fundraiser for the Thetford Volunteer Fire Department. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Cassidy Dezan, 12, left, Shannon Hayes, 12, and Norma Clark ride in a float titled "Redneck Beach Party" during the annual Thetford Labor Day parade in Post Mills, Vt. on September 2, 2013. The parade was followed by a BBQ chicken fundraiser for the Thetford Volunteer Fire Department. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Post Mills — Mavis and Louise Downey of Thetford danced around in their flower print dresses, taking turns catching candy and throwing the pieces into their red and green umbrellas that lay open and overturned on the black top.
The 5- and 7-year-old sisters, accompanied by their mother, Kristen, said the best part about Monday’s Post Mills parade and chicken barbecue was the candy.
“They (people on the floats) sometimes throw out candy,” the girls jointly said, as they twirled around, spinning their dresses. Their mother echoing back, “They throw candy!”
And with the “aruuugah” of an antique car horn sounding, the nearly three decade old parade kicked off. More than two dozen floats and vehicles proceeded down Route 113 and onto Route 244 in Post Mills on Monday — some depicting a “redneck” beach party, as stated on a black and white sign stripped across a flatbed trailer, and others representing school sporting teams, neighborhood fire departments and local libraries.
People of all ages lined the streets, some siting in lawn chairs, some standing.
Small children an arms length away from their parents waved and jumped up and down, hoping a piece of candy would come flying their way.
For many of the eventgoers, Monday’s festivities marked Labor Day and the end of summer, and for others it represented the true meaning of “community.”
“It’s very important to have these events,” said Frank Godfrey, of West Fairlee. “Sometimes, it’s the only time we get to see each other, even though our lives are entwined for other things. It’s the community events that bring us together.”
Jim Harlow, an Army veteran, led Monday’s parade with other American Legion members. Harlow, a Thetford resident, said events like the parade and chicken barbecue show the special camaraderie within a town. He added that lighthearted get-togethers are a way to take one’s mind off the day-to-day grind.
“With everything going on in the world, isn’t it just nice to let your hair down and have a good day once in a while,” Harlow said.
The event marked the 52nd chicken barbecue for the town of Thetford and village of Post Mills — and there was no shortage of chicken, that’s for sure.
Mariah Whitcomb, deputy chief of the Thetford Volunteer Fire Department, said the department ordered 700 half chickens for their annual fundraiser and by 2 p.m. about half of the meals were sold.
Last year the department netted $6,200, the most money ever raised at the event, and Whitcomb said she hoped to match that number this year.
“With this weather, I’m not sure we will,” she said. Whitcomb rated the event turnout as “pretty good.”
Although the number of attendees remained steady, Whitcomb said the threat of rain turned away about 75 percent of the vendors who participate in the annual flea market.
The money raised will go into a fundraising budget for the department and go toward helping to pay for miscellaneous items and larger projects, such as replacing the driveways at the two fire stations, for example.
Money aside, Whitcomb said the event is a way for the fire department to connect with community members on a lighter note and in a different setting.
“It’s our way of interacting when it’s not an emergency, which is what we want. We don’t always want to see them on the worst day of their lives,” Whitcomb said.
The firefighters who cooked the chickens arrived on scene — at the department’s station on Route 244 — between 4 and 4:30 a.m.
To firefighter Spunk Kuehlwein, that time is nothing more than a number.
“I have always done it,” she said in reference to rising at the crack of dawn to get down to the fire station and start roasting the chickens. “It’s a lot of fun, good camaraderie,” she said, noting she participated in 10 chicken barbecue events throughout her 18 years on the department.
The rain held off for Monday’s event and the skies brightened as the line to purchase a meal ticket dwindled.
Ben Hooke, 8, of Vershire, has attended the event since age 3 and said he keeps coming back for two reasons: candy and the barbecue chicken. Although the line to purchase his meal took longer than he had hoped, he said the wait was worth it.
“It was very, very good,” Hooke said, as he let out a belch and refilled his fork. “Very good.”
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.