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The Westerly High School dance line comes down Granite St in the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade which was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun)
Grand Marshall of the Columbus day Parade,Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, VA. waves to the crowd as his car comes down Granite St in Westerly. The 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun) The Bradford Elementary School float goes by on Grove Ave. in Westerly in the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade which was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun) People applaud as the Westerly High School Band and Dance Line goes by on Grove Street in the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade  which was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun) The Ancient mariners Fife and Drum Corp of Connecticut marched down libert St in Pawcatuck in the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade that was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun) The Connecticut Patriots of Plaiville CT marched in the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade that  was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun)  The Stonington High School Band marched down Caanl St in Westerly in the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun) Westerly and Pawcatuck firefighters marhed together down Canl St in Westerly in the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade which was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun)  Firetrucks from the Westerly and Pawcatuck fire Departments drive down Canal St in Westerly in the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade which was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun) The Stonington High School Band marches down Canal Street in Westerly during the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade. | (Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun) The Connecticut Patriots of Plainville, CT come around the corner from Granite St to Grove Ave in Westerly at the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade which was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun) Dominic Larson, 3 months, slept through the parade as his mom, Deanna Larson of Westerly pushed him in a stroller in  the 66th Annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade which was celebrated today through the streets of Westerly and Pawcatuck.They were walking with B and M Landscaping of North Stonington which had a truck in the parade. .( Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun)

Community spirit shines at Columbus parade


WESTERLY — Locals and out-of-towners, families and friends lined the sidewalks of downtown on Sunday for a flag-waving celebration of a 66-year tradition, the annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade.

The event, established in 1947, featured more than 100 different groups, totaling about 1,400 marchers from local schools, bands and businesses. Ranging from a shark-themed float courtesy of Mystic Aquarium, to antique cars, Kentish Guards and school bands and cheerleaders, the participants brought a well-seasoned mix of music, entertainment and local color.

While many of the groups were regulars, the grand marshal — the Most Rev. Paul Loverde, who grew up in Pawcatuck — was participating for the first time. Loverde, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Va., has traveled the country and the world, but said he always loves returning to his childhood home.

“I am both humbled and privileged to come back home,” he said. “It’s such a great community event that unites the two towns.”

Loverde’s passion for education inspired the theme of this year’s parade, “commitment to education.”

“Education is such a great contribution made to young people,” he said. “It allows them to develop in all aspects of their personality: intellectually, physically and emotionally.”

Loverde’s alma mater, St. Michael School, was one of many represented in this year’s parade. Principal Doris Messina said the school has participated in the parade for five years. “I think it’s just a great event,” she said. “It’s good to celebrate who we are, our sense of community and pride.”

The Westerly Band has been marching since the parade’s first year. For the past seven, the band has carried out a new tradition: its first song is one written by Westerly resident and band member Pat Siravo.

Siravo described the song, “The Spirit of Westerly,” as upbeat and well-suited to street marching.

Alison Patton, band director, said, “It’s got a lot of spirit, just like the town.”

For onlooker Karen Azzinaro, of Westerly, not much has changed in her routine of watching the parade over the years,

She said she attends every year, and always sits in “her spot” on the stone wall across from Ella’s Fine Food & Drink.

“It’s a great chance to get together with friends and family,” she said. “It’s so enjoyable and so full of community spirit.”

Even 4-year-old Brody Kenyon of Westerly said this is not his first time at the parade.

“We always do some family thing this weekend,” said his mother, Andi. “This year, it was apple picking. But it always ends with going to the parade.”

Brody said he was most excited for the free candy given out, and was specifically hoping for bubble gum lollipops.

“He loves the tubas, too,” added Andi.

A newcomer to the parade, Megan Ravenelle, just moved to Westerly after marrying her husband, Brian, a Westerly native. “So far, so good,” she said.

Edward Kaar, of Providence, was also a first-time parade-goer, brought by friend and Westerly resident Jennifer Stitch.

“You don’t see a lot of the smaller community parades going on anymore,” Kaar said. “Whether it’s lack of funding or members, I don’t know. But it’s great this thing is still going.”

Though the parade lasted just a few hours, Jeff Frenette, vice president of the parade committee, said the planning is a yearlong effort that begins the day after the parade.

Frenette, who has served with the committee alongside his wife for 11 years, said the most difficult part is always organizing the lineup.

This year, the committee asked the Westerly High School chapter of the National Honor Society to serve as division marshals, effectively leading and organizing the 10 parade divisions.

“They have been an amazing group of kids to work with,” Frenette said.

Frenette estimated that the cost of the parade runs between $19,000 and $21,000 each year. Donations from corporate sponsors and division sponsors are essential to raising the necessary funds, as well as the annual pasta dinner fundraiser. This year, the event also received almost $3,100 from local residents and groups like the Friends of Columbus.

Securing Loverde as the grand marshal took some time, since the bishop has a very busy schedule. “We were so happy to have him this year,” Frenette said. “Thankfully the stars all aligned and he was able to come.”

Loverde concluded that the character of the towns, as represented by the parade, is what he misses most when he’s away.

“There’s a real warmth of the people in this area that always makes it a joy to come back home,” he said.

nlavin@thewesterlysun.com



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