This Memorial Day, I had the chance to attend the Middlebury Memorial Day Parade. Firetrucks, boyscouts, girlscouts, local politicians, police cars, bagpipes, and aliens from the town theatre were just a few of the spectacular sites I saw marching down Main Street in the bright rising sun. Most of the town was up and searching for a good spot in the shade on this particularly warm summer’s day before the parade began at 9. The employees from the local dentist’s office were handing out free donuts and coffee to all the hungry children and parents in need of caffeine. I found a nice shaded spot with a couple of friends next to the newest addition to the town of Middlebury: the roundabout.
Middlebury is a small town with a population of about 8,000 people. Needless to say, a major construction project right in the middle of town is a pretty big deal for Middlebury. A new bridge over Otter Creek was opened connecting downtown to Route 7 through the new roundabout. There was a big celebration with fireworks and all at the opening of the bridge at the end of October.
The annual Memorial Day parade was a little bit different this year with the new roundabout and bridge. Many people crowded all around the newly paved sidewalks to watch the parade come down Main Street. It started at the south end of Main Street, circled half way around the new roundabout, passed the town green, and ended at the town theatre where a local student recited the Gettysburg Address and a public official gave a speech.
The town parade is a very local, small town Vermont kind of event. You see the same people going every year in the same spot. It is definitely one of the social highlights of the year and a great way for the student summer workers to meet some of the townspeople. Most of the businesses in town are closed for Memorial Day, so there is always a large turnout. Many people have family or friends in the parade, whether it is an elementary school student or a grandparent playing a bagpipe. I saw the Middlebury firemen, police officers, EMTs, American Legion members, the Middlebury Union High School Band, farmers on their tractors, and many of the other groups that make up the Middlebury community. The parade does a great job of illustrating the home-feel you can only get in a rural town in Vermont. Parents and grandparents are cheering for their children and grandchildren as they walk by, teens are socializing in small groups, children are running around grabbing candy, and a general sense of Middlebury pride is present everywhere you look. As if Middlebury town spirit isn’t enough, the Mary Hogan Elementary School and Middlebury Union Junior High and High School students get on a bus after they have finished their march and head to Vergennes to participate in the end of the Vergennes Memorial Day Parade.
As a student at Middlebury College, it was nice to be able to put a face to the town of Middlebury without the college in the picture. Sure, I ran into a couple of professors and some co-workers, but there wasn’t a college float or advertisement all throughout the parade. The college is very involved in the community and attracts many visitors to Middlebury, but when you put the college aside, Middlebury is still a healthy, vibrant, and welcoming place. I am proud to call Middlebury my home for the next few years.