I Miss A Parade

Brattleboro used to have a healthy number of local and visiting parades; nowadays not so much.

Some of the earliest parades were put on by the volunteer fire brigades around town. There were lots of volunteers firefighters in the 1800’s and if the reports are correct, they liked to parade around town at least once a year to show of their uniforms, equipment, hoses, and in-house musical bands. Coronets were popular for a while.

Brattleboro marched up and down Main Street to celebrate the railroad arriving in town for the first time.

Brattleboro had military parades, with soldiers marching to and fro in their uniforms before, after, and between wars. We had Valley Fair parades with flags and buntings absolutely covering downtown. We had parades to welcome dignitaries, such as Teddy Roosevelt.

Circus parades were common. All sorts of wild animals, wagons, and performers would parade around town to advertise their show.  With multiple circuses a year sometimes, this meant quite a few parades. World famous Jumbo participated in a parade in Brattleboro.

These old parades didn’t just head down Main Street, either. Parades routes would have people and animals marching on side streets, and sometimes doing multiple loops.

At the turn of this century, Brattleboro was known for two regular parades – the High School Alumni parade and the Fourth of July Parade.  

The High School parade was quite unique and fun. It would feature different graduating years and themes and it was always fun to see the lineage between some of the oldest members of the community riding by, followed by the youngest graduates rollicking up the street, sometimes with squirt guns. Truly generational in spirit, it demonstrated lineage in a community.

The parade on the Fourth expanded things to include the entire community and region. There would often be multiple bands – High School, American Legion Band, and sometimes another regional musical group, and lots of local organizations. This parade would bring in the fire fighters and emergency services from the region. For a long time, it was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

Then came Heifers. The Heifer parade was a spectacle. While it originated here, the feeling was far from local. Participants from far away would get involved. As it grew in popularity, the out of town crowds would come each year to fill the streets, then follow the parade out of downtown for other events.  

It took a lot of energy and was scheduled in such a way that ended up smothering the Alumni parade (no one was up for another parade a week or two after Heifers).

The Chamber dropped support for the Independence Day parade years ago, and so it fell on citizens to pick up the pieces. Tim O’Connor was instrumental in making sure the 4th didn’t go the way of alumni. The citizen-run Brattleboro Goes Fourth took over.

Heifers is no more, and Brattleboro has room in the schedule for at least one more parade. Possibly more. Here are my suggestions.

Brattleboro Goes Fourth should continue, and someone should endow it.

The Alumni Parade – now under a different mascot –  should emerge from hibernation and roar once again.

As for a third, well, I’d like to see circus parades continue to grow and prosper here. The core talent is here at the circus school and some parading has already happened. The rest of our talent for this is scattered throughout the community – we have stilt-walkers, jugglers, dogs that do tricks, musicians, and so on.  HatchSpace could build a circus wagon. The Estey Museum could provide an organ. A parade that leads to a show. Heaven!

We could certainly have a renewal of the firefighters parade, featuring regional emergency services.  This could culminate in firefighter competitions – various companies competing to carry hoses, hit a target with a hose, see who can shoot water the highest,/furthest, etc. Add a clambake you have a great summer event that raises money.

And these parades do not all need to follow the same route. Consider winding through side streets, or West Brattleboro for that matter.

Let’s make parades a priority again.

Comments | 3


    I was just talking about this with Cam. The parades were a lot of fun. Why did Strolling die? Covid? Bring it back, but in the Fall.
    Bring back the alumnis so the kids come home for Father’s Day and graduation. Amp up Bratt Goes Fourth to the participation, silliness and respect it had.
    And why not add a Firefighters parade? It’s reclaiming tradition.
    And why not a circus parade? We have all sorts of talent, and fairgrounds.

  • Ask & Ye Shall Receive

    From the next selectboard agenda:

    “In a memorandum dated May 31, 2024 Town Manager John Potter discusses the parade permit application for Out in the Open to host a parade on June 9, 2024. They plan to use the sidewalks and crosswalks. No road closures are required. By approving the Consent Agenda, the Board will approve a parade permit for Out in the Open’s parade on June 9, 2024.”

    Parades, activate!

    (Pretty sure the Strolling org folded up, and got rid of the parade, programming and River Garden HQ.)

  • Brattleboro Goes Fourth is Back!

    (Though somewhat weakened…)

    “The all-volunteer citizens committee will begin the day at 10 a.m. with a parade from Flat Street to Main Street and the Common. The shorter route comes after requests from older marchers and challenges finding enough volunteers and public safety patrols to monitor a longer distance.”

    So, more volunteers needed! Get involved! brattleborogoesfourth@gmail.com

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