By MEGAN GAMBINO
BRISTOL â€” The Fourth of July weekend sometimes calls for a visit to out-of-town relatives, but for those staying home and those looking to entertain friends and family, there are parades, fireworks, live music, and an array of contests happening in Addison County and Brandon.
STARTING IN BRISTOL
Bristolâ€™s annual Fourth of July celebration, recently highlighted in the summer issue of Vermont Life, fires up on Monday, July 3, with live music by local groups â€œSweet Bentsâ€? and â€œIn Transitionâ€? at 8 p.m. and a fireworks display by Northstar Fireworks, a Vermont-based fireworks company, at 9 p.m. on the Bristol Recreation Field.
Festivities carry over to Tuesday, July 4, as does the precedent of explosive starts, with a 5-kilometer road race scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m.
If the road race doesnâ€™t satiate your competitive streak, maybe Bristolâ€™s famous outhouse race will. Local businesses and families sponsor and decorate 16 outhouse frames propped up on wheels. The race starts at 9 a.m., and team representatives push the mobile privies down West Street past town hall.
A group of Boy Scouts will be lining up the floats as early as 8 a.m., but the July 4th parade gets underway at 10:30 a.m. Peter Grant, an organizer of the parade, says that entries to the parade are coming in â€œfast and furious.â€? Though the total number of entrants is yet to be determined, Bristol Friends of the Arts, Pocock Entertainment, several fire departments, a group of PT Cruisers, Civil War and Revolutionary War re-enactors and others are already committed to the event. Longtime town secretary Shirley Emilo will preside as grand marshal.
This yearâ€™s theme is â€œThe Roaring â€™20s,â€? and Grant urges all those decorating their floats in line with the theme to make sure to mark their float with a large number that will be visible to the judging stand at the town hall. The final judging and the presentation of cash prizes will follow.
Organizers of the parade are cracking down on the use of water guns and have installed new rules this year, primarily, the banning of water bombs. Specific requests were made by town residents to deal with the situation, and notices about the new rule have been hung around town.
â€œWe forbid it. Water bombs are definitely taboo,â€? says Grant.
After the parade, starting at noon, there will be games, vendors, and food on the Green. Winners of a canoe being raffled off will be announced at 2 p.m., and, in typical Bristol Fourth of July fashion, there will be a blues performance in honor of the late Big Joe Burrell, who played at previous July Fourth events. This yearâ€™s performer will be Sandra Wright, who hails from Memphis but who has been a Vermonter since 1992. The dayâ€™s festivities will likely wrap up around 4 p.m.
What Brandon rightfully boasts as one of the biggest and best parades in Vermont will take place on Saturday, July 1, this year.
The Brandon Independence Day Celebration Committee, chaired by Kelly Weigand-Yuncker, has organized a full day of festivities â€” all free to the public.
Brandonâ€™s parks open at 9 a.m. for the Independence Day celebration, and the first scheduled events are a silent auction and a pie-eating contest, both at 10 a.m. The silent auction is held at the Brandon Congregational Church Hall with bidding open until 3:30 p.m. And if the pie-eating contest perks your interest more, plan to be at Central Park early because participation requires registering at 9 a.m.
Other contests during the day include the Great Brandon Ball Race at 3:30 p.m. in Green Park and the eighth annual fiddling contest at the same time.
The theme to this yearâ€™s July Fourth celebration is â€œBrandon Makes Music,â€? with performances precluding and following the 1 p.m. parade. Pre-parade entertainment includes karaoke in Central Park at 10:30 a.m., a presentation of Nick of Time by Randolphâ€™s â€œNo-Strings Marionette Co.â€? at the Brandon Town Hall at 11 a.m., and a performance by the Brandon Town Players theater group on the steps of the Congregational Church at noon. The Snake Mountain Bluegrass Band will provide post-parade entertainment.
The parade itself features floats, fire departments and marching bands, but new to the parade this year is â€œMighty Brandonâ€™s Flying Palette Circus,â€? a group of artists turned clowns for the day from the Brandon Arts Guild.
The costumed Guild members will be presenting the large circus-themed palettes that they made as part of the statewide â€œPalettes of Vermontâ€? event for the first time during the parade, pushing stands with the oversize palettes through the streets. The Vermont Arts Councilâ€™s PaletteMobile, with its traveling exhibit of painted palettes, will be parked in front of the Brandon Arts Guild for the day, and all of the large palettes will be placed there at the end of the parade as well.
At 6:30 p.m., the park at Park Village opens, and games, rides, vendors and a disk-jockey will be set up. And, of course, the Fourth of July wouldnâ€™t be the Fourth of July without fireworks; they begin at dusk.
According to the Brandon Police Department, traffic might be slower through Brandon between 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and then again between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., and no traffic will be allowed to enter the village from 12:45 p.m. to approximately 2:15 p.m. while the parade is under way. A detour will be in place to route motorists on Route 7 around the town center.
If you miss Brandonâ€™s fireworks or youâ€™re just hunkering for some more, the Basin Harbor Club will be setting them off again this year from their airstrip on July 3. Parking will be available near the site, or boat owners can opt to watch from Lake Champlain.
In Middlebury, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra will perform their annual Pops Concert at the Middlebury College Alumni Stadium, or the Field House in case of rain, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 29. The event is sponsored by Middleburyâ€™s Henry Sheldon Museum. There is an admission charge. For more information, call 388-2117.
To kick off the weekend of festivities, Gene Childers and the Jubilee Jazz Band will be playing popular jazz tunes in Brandonâ€™s Central Park beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 30.
In Salisbury, the town will host its annual ice cream social at the Congregational Church on Tuesday, July 4, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine.