BRATTLEBORO -- After organizers announced that this year's Independence Day Parade could be postponed due to the threat of severe thunderstorms, the parade rolled up Main Street right on schedule Wednesday morning.
Grand Marshall Deirdre Baker left the Brattleboro Union High School parking lot in her green convertible just after 10 a.m. and was followed by fire trucks, soldiers, skateboarders, musicians and the usual assortment of marchers for the town's annual Fourth of July celebration.
Brattleboro Goes Fourth Committee Chairman Tim O'Connor was cheerfully greeting parade participants at the entrance to the parking lot early Wednesday after making the call that the parade would in fact be held.
On Tuesday, when the long range forecast called for dangerous thunderstorms with damaging winds, the committee considered calling off the parade.
After meeting with town officials and the parade's insurer, O'Connor said organizers were informed that the parade could not be held if there was a threat of storms.
O'Connor woke up at 6 a.m. Wednesday and called the National Weather Service offices in Burlington and in Albany.
Meteorologists said any storms in the vicinity of Brattleboro would probably not hit until later in the afternoon and so O'Connor and the rest of the committee decided to run the parade as scheduled.
Carol Kluke, who has come down to watch Brattleboro's annual Fourth of July parade for 20 years, was
Kluke arrived early and staked out a prime spot in the shade of the Holstein Building on lower Main Street.
While she was there to cheer on everyone in the parade, Kluke said it is serious business that brings her out on the Fourth.
"My dad was a super patriot and I learned from him that you respect the flag," she said. "I love the color guard and the flag. I love a parade."
Parade organizers made one last minute change Wednesday after deciding that the weather would cooperate.
Grand Marshall Baker, who has been battling cancer, was supposed to follow the first few contingents which were representing the 100th anniversary of Brattleboro's Pageant of 1912.
Parade organizer Kevin O'Connor said Baker was moved to the front of the line to honor Baker's strength and resiliency, and the parade's triumph over adversity.
"Yesterday there was a 71 percent chance of storms and we didn't think this would happen," he said. "Deirdre is here against all odds, and we are too, so we wanted to put that out there."
Organizers paid tribute to Brattleboro's Pageant of 1912, which was a four day production that honored the town's then-150 years of history.
The Brattleboro Skateboard Committee rode legally up Main Street as part of the Pageant, followed by the Agape Christian Fellowship.
The town's rich tradition of supporting the arts, which was honored in the original 1912 play, was celebrated in the parade by a long line of artists, writers, musicians and actors who made way for the more traditional parade participants who followed.
Barb Kluke said the parade is a perfect representation of everything that makes Brattleboro special.
She said she appreciates the various political groups that march, and on one day, march together for the same cause.
"This is about freedom of expressions. It's special," she said. "This is what we are allowed to do in this country and I like that a lot.
Josh Hallock said this year's parade felt different, as a first-time parent bringing his child to the event.
He admitted that while many of the themes would likely be lost on his daughter, it was important for her to be a part of the celebration.
"I'm sure next year she'll be more aware, and each year after that," he said. "We want her growing up, loving her country, and proud to be an American. We wanted her to see this. It means a lot."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279