PITTSFIELD — A decorated World War II veteran well-known for his stirring renditions of the Star Spangled Banner will lead this year's Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade.
The parade committee has named Tony Pastore as the grand marshal when the Independence Day event marches through the downtown in less than two weeks.
Pastore is humbled by the honor of headlining a parade he's been participating in for decades.
"What has made it so great is being surrounded by your comrades and getting together after the parade," he said.
Parade committee president Peter Marchetti admires Pastore's allegiance to the parade.
"He'll be riding in a convertible and it doesn't matter if it's pouring rain — he's always there," Marchetti said.
In 1943, Tony Pastore was drafted into the Army Air Corps, later becoming Air Force two years before he was discharged in 1949. The Pittsfield High School graduate saw action in Italy, his unit entering Rome June 4, 1944 — two days prior to D-Day, the allied amphibious invasion of northern France. In the Italian capitol, he was included in a private audience with Pope Pius XII — twice.
For years, the Pittsfield High School graduate has been active in several veterans organizations, including the Disabled American Veterans, serving as the local DAV commander from 1992-94 and its chaplain for the last 40 years.
He was honored with The French Fourragere, an award from the French government, and his unit received a Presidential Unit Citation.
Pastore often lends his voice to local a patriotic events by singing the National Anthem and regularly sings with the St. mark's Church choir in Pittsfield.
"Music is my whole life and it's a great honor to sing for the troops," he said.
This year's parade theme "Music & Dance Through the Years" celebrates Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and other Berkshire cultural attractions.
"We've had some new organizations enter the parade due to the theme [such as] Jacob's Pillow, Cantarella [School of Dance] and Albany Berkshire Ballet," Marchetti noted.
The 2016 parade line up has 174 marching units, including sponsors' banners, expect to take roughly two hours to promenade through the city center, starting 10 a.m. at the South Street/East and West Housatonic streets intersection ending a Wahconah park, via North Street.
As for fundraising, parade organizers need about another $35,000 to meet the annual $85,000 goal needed to stage the event — nearly half to cover the cost of the paid musical acts. Donations can be made online at www.pittsfieldparade.com. Checks are also welcome and made payable to Pittsfield Parade Committee Inc., P.O. Box 1738, Pittsfield, MA 01202.
After a decade-long absence, the Fourth of July Parade drum and bugle corps competition returns to Wahconah Park on July 3
David Hobart, director of the Long Island Sunrisers Drum & Bugle Corps, is working with the committee to coordinate the competition featuring four drum and bugle corps- three of which are expected to march in the parade. The Eagles Band, Berkshire County's oldest continuous performance ensemble, will open the competition playing the Star Spangled Banner and play several patriotic numbers.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233