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Thousands gather to celebrate the Fourth with a Norwood tradition

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NORWOOD — It’s not just a parade. It’s tradition. It’s community. It’s coming home.

Those were the recurring words from those participating in and watching the 78th annual Norwood Volunteer Fire Department Fourth of July parade.

With more than 900 participants, 25 floats, four bands and 15 fire departments, the parade continues to grow with the years, said parade Chairman Robert C. Haggett.

Mr. Haggett, who also is the manager of the Norwood Brass Firemen, started working on the parade in 2004 and became the lone orchestrator of the event in 2006.

It was only eight years ago that the parade was as small as 15 firetrucks.

“That was the parade,” Mr. Haggett said. “What got my interest is this parade was pretty much dying out and people were saying, ‘Boy I wish we could have parades like we used to.’”

The late Marlyn H. Edwards and Emmett W. Regan, former members of the Norwood Fire Department, were responsible for the parade in 1972, when Mr. Haggett joined the department. Thursday’s parade was held in their memory.

Mr. Haggett said that as prominent members of the department, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Regan took pride in the parades and made them larger than life.

“It was when every high school would come with their band,” Mr. Haggett said. “People were into their parades back then, and so I said, ‘I can do this.’”

Part of that effort includes keeping some of the traditions.

“We have started leading this parade with a huge 10-by-19-foot American flag carried by veterans,” Mr. Haggett said. “We’ll always do that.”

But as the parade expanded, builders of floats looked to create themes. This year’s theme came from the world of Dr. Seuss.

From 8,000 to 9,000 bystanders cheered along the parade route and waved at Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat in the Hat and other Dr. Seuss characters that were brought to life for the parade.

Sitting with her yellow Labrador puppy, Hank, Pamela A. Napolitano, Massena, watched her grandchildren running around after the floats.

“I grew up in Norwood,” Mrs. Napolitano said. “This parade is like coming back home. It reminds me of being a child.”

She said one of things she enjoys most about the parade is the memories, reliving old ones and creating new ones.

“I remember when I was a little girl and was on one of the floats with the Girl Scouts,” Mrs. Napolitano said. “It’s all about the memories.”

Maureen W. Triolo is a Norwood resident of 35 years and said the parade is a wonderful tradition.

“We love it. It seems like every year, it is getting bigger,” she said. “If families are coming home, this is the weekend they do it.”

Mrs. Triolo said one thing she would like to see more of at the parade is high school bands, something she said she hasn’t seen as much of in recent years.

Norwood Assistant Chief Don T. Jarvis said the parade wouldn’t be what it is without Mr. Haggett.

“He’s a one-man show. He works on this from mid-April right up to the day of,” Mr. Jarvis said.

“The Fire Department appreciates the hard work and dedication he puts into this parade each year and the work he puts into helping the Fire Department and the community.”

Following the parade were firemen’s field activities including lawn-mower racing and a demolition derby, along with rides for children.

Activities continued until dusk, when the fireworks display was set to begin.

That fireworks display costs the Fire Department $5,500, Mr. Haggett said. The department tries to get the community involved, and there have been a number of charitable donations to the annual event, he said.

“For $2 to go into the field and have an afternoon of entertainment and helping the local Fire Department, that is what it is all about,” Mr. Haggett said.

Additional donations to the annual event can be made to the Norwood Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 231, Norwood, N.Y. 13668.

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