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A Chance to See and Be Seen: Bi-State Parade Showcases Friendly History of Orford, Fairlee

  • Eadie Molesworth, 11, of West Fairlee relies on her dad, Jon, to help her up the slope to the bridge from Orford, N.H.,  to Fairlee, Vt., during the parade on July 4, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Eadie Molesworth, 11, of West Fairlee relies on her dad, Jon, to help her up the slope to the bridge from Orford, N.H., to Fairlee, Vt., during the parade on July 4, 2013.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jack Meyers, 7, of Waterbury Center, Vt., waves to a truck during the 4th of July Parade in Fairlee, Vt., on July 4, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Jack Meyers, 7, of Waterbury Center, Vt., waves to a truck during the 4th of July Parade in Fairlee, Vt., on July 4, 2013.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Doug Coughlin of Piermont tosses his Chinese Yoyo or Diablo into the air to the delight of several young spectators before the parade rolled through   Fairlee, Vt., on July 4, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Doug Coughlin of Piermont tosses his Chinese Yoyo or Diablo into the air to the delight of several young spectators before the parade rolled through Fairlee, Vt., on July 4, 2013.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Eadie Molesworth, 11, of West Fairlee relies on her dad, Jon, to help her up the slope to the bridge from Orford, N.H.,  to Fairlee, Vt., during the parade on July 4, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Jack Meyers, 7, of Waterbury Center, Vt., waves to a truck during the 4th of July Parade in Fairlee, Vt., on July 4, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Doug Coughlin of Piermont tosses his Chinese Yoyo or Diablo into the air to the delight of several young spectators before the parade rolled through   Fairlee, Vt., on July 4, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

No one can quite put a number on how many years the Orford-Fairlee July 4th parade has marched its way west across the Connecticut River, but everyone agrees on one thing: these two communities share a long history.

“The Orford-Fairlee parade has been a Fourth of July event for as long as I can remember, at least back to the 1940s,” said Orford’s Ann Green, a member of the committee that organized the annual.

The bond between Orford and Fairlee dates back hundreds of years.

“In the 1770s, we didn’t have a church in Fairlee. Orford did,” said Russ Smith, president of the Fairlee Historical Society. “We went to their church then, and we have a tradition of being close-knit towns ever since.”

Beginning promptly at 11 a.m. yesterday, the color guard led the parade over the river. The color guard included Navy veteran Jim Brigham, of West Fairlee, and his grandson Jessie, who made the trip from Florida to march in the parade.

“This was the opportunity for us to march together,” Jim Birgham proudly. “It’s probably the only time in my lifetime I’ll get to march with him.”

The color guard was followed by a procession of military veterans, service and utility vehicles, bands, floats, animals, jugglers and other entertainers.

“It was a lovely parade,” says Laura Verry, who said she served in the Woman’s Army Corp in World War II.

“And we had the ideal seats,” chimed in her husband, Herb Verry, an Air Force veteran, pointing at their chairs on one of the floats.

“I like riding this in the parade because it’s unusual,” 11-year-old unicyclist Eadie Moleworth, of West Fairlee, said. “It’s something you don’t see every day.”

Earl Robinson raised oxen as a child in Post Mills and walked with them in the parade 20 years ago. He hoped that there would still be oxen in the parade. Sure enough, there were.

“They have a good parade here,” said Bob Pollard, of Enfield. “You’re going to see everything, and I mean everything.”

Heidi Payton has a parade tradition of her own. “Free Lemonade,” a sign on her Orford front lawn read.

“We think that some things in life should be free, and lemonade on the Fourth of July should be one of them,” she said. “We don’t accept money; all we ask is a random act of kindness in return.”

At the finish of the parade in Fairlee, the Fire Department was prepared with hundreds of barbecued chickens, which sold out within an hour as the Maple Leaf Seven played ragtime nearby.

“I just love seeing everybody getting out and enjoying life like this,” said longtime fire department member Jim O’Donnell.

Abby Hinsley, 14, helped her grandmother Sonie Farnham, sell pie and ice cream after the parade to raise money for a Fairlee Community Church.

“I like seeing everybody on the commons here,” she said. “Everybody all together.”

Fairlee’s resident Andréa Haehnel had something to celebrate yesterday other than life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: her 17th birthday.

“It’s great because everyone celebrates my birthday,” she joked while eating a holiday-themed cupcake. “They put on a parade for me and they put on fireworks for me!”

After a flag raising ceremony, prizes were awarded to parade participants by category. This year’s parade theme was the Roaring ‘20s, and the Stilt Walkers won the Best of Theme grand prize. Natalie Traendly was one of the Stilt Walkers.

“It’s a family tradition,” she said.

Her mother, Aletta Traendly, who donned a ‘20s-style flapper dress with a gold headpiece, agreed.

“Our favorite part is the preparation,” she said. “We have a row of sewing machines and a row of glue guns and we make the costumes. And where else can you wear a boa?”