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Predictably Unpredictable: Warren's Fourth Of July Parade

warren-parade-jeff-myers-2008.jpg
Jeff Myers
/
Flickr
The Warren Fourth of July parade, famous for its colorful and wacky floats, draws thousands to the small Vermont town each year.

No one ever knows exactly what to expect from Warren’s Fourth of July parade. Over the past 67 years though, it’s grown into a Vermont bucket list item.

The Chester A. Arthur room is perched on the second floor of Warren’s Pitcher Inn. The room next door has an identical veranda and it’s named after Vermont’s other president: Calvin Coolidge.

Ari Sadri manages the inn and leads the way outside.

"As we sit here, we're looking out over the Warren Store," Sadri points out.

Squeezed between the store and the inn is Main Street, which on July 4th will double as the route for the town’s well-known parade.

“The architects decided that any good presidential room should have a balcony that sort of mimicked the presidential reviewing stand,” says Sadri.

At about $500 a night, the presidential view isn’t cheap. But these rooms have been sold out every Fourth of July since they opened in 1997 – sometimes five years in advance.

“There's no bad seat in the house,” says Sadri. “These just happen to be the best ones.”

The same could be said for the parade itself.

"For example, in Waterbury or Northfield, or  any other parade you might go to, it's pretty straightforward. It's stars and stripes and red, white and blue, patriots and Independence Day," says Tom Beardsley, who has been announcing the Warren parade on WDEV radio for more than a decade. 

"They view patriotism as being freedom of speech and being able to express your opinions openly without fear of any retribution." - Tom Beardsley, radio announcer

Beardsley says people in Warren take a totally different approach. “They view patriotism as being freedom of speech and being able to express your opinions openly without fear of any retribution,” he says.

Over the years, the parade has seen “More soil, less oil” signs, secessionist floats and even a naked participant or two. Each Independence Day, the left-leaning spectacle draws thousands of attendees.

Jack Garvin manages the general store and hasn’t missed a parade in 35 years. He says that it used to be even more boisterous before a deadly drunk-driving crash led to stricter enforcement of open container laws. 

“It was like New Orleans here,” says Garvin. “It was really out of control. When the day was over, the town kind of looked like a landfill. We literally had to clean the streets with snow shovels.”

"It was like New Orleans here. It was really out of control. When the day was over, the town kind of looked like a landfill. We literally had to clean the streets with snow shovels." - Jack Garvin, manager of the Warren General Store

Others harken back even further and don’t like the current iteration one bit.

“It used to be a decent parade, but now, it's just drugs and drink,” says one Main Street resident, who declined to give her name. She has lived in Warren her entire life.  “In the good old days there wasn't the dancing and stuff going on down there,” she says.

Nonetheless, the parade marches on. This year though, with a notable absence.

Sitting on the Chester Arthur balcony, Sadri is dismayed to learn that Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to spend the Fourth of July on the campaign trail in Iowa, not marching in Warren. This will be the first parade Sanders has missed in ten years.

“I hate to hear that, [but] certainly understand the challenges of a presidential campaign,” says Sadri.

"The one thing that you can predict about the Warren parade is it's unpredictable." - Tom Beardsley

Still, with sun and creativity in the forecast, organizers expect a lively event. Slipping on his radio voice, Beardsley gives his take, “The one thing that you can predict about the Warren parade is it's unpredictable.”

And that, everyone says, should keep people coming back.

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