WILLIAMSTOWN — With its homespun, hometown focus, this community's July 4 parade might best be described as "of the people, for the people and by the people."
"This parade is small town Americana at its best," said David Armet, president of the town Youth Center board of directors. "I think this is one of the best events in town. On this day, it's the ultimate sense of community and country."
Armet held a bouquet of small American flags in one hand as he pointed to a musical instrument collection meant for center parade participants — kazoos.
"These are a lot of fun," he said.
The parade stepped off at about 11 a.m. and continued for nearly 45 minutes. Participants lined up along Southworth Street and in a Southworth School apartment complex parking lot. Members of Capital Brass, a band from the Albany, N.Y., area, said they'd passed up invitations to march in Pittsfield's nationally known Fourth of July parade so that they could perform during the smaller event.
"We get calls from the Pittsfield Parade Committee, but Williamstown has us tied up here," band Director Thomas MacDonald said. "We were invited to play during the Clark (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute) opening in 2014, and somebody must have liked it because we were invited back for the parade. After last year's parade, we did a little impromptu concert and people liked it. This year, we were asked to do a concert after the parade and we're doing it."
Band member Rob Cenci said the town event is extremely enjoyable.
"We have a ball here," he said. "I love this parade; who doesn't love a parade?"
North Adams Steeplecats baseball team members drew enthusiastic cheers and applause as they marched the route. Team mascot Slider was particularly in demand, as numerous children asked for hugs and high-fives, and Slider was happy to mix and mingle with spectators.
"It's definitely an honor to be in the parade," said Steeplecats player Josh Simpson, of Stafford Springs, Conn. "Everyone has been talking about this and I am excited to be part of it."
Bryce Barr of Austin, Texas, agreed that marching was a great experience for the team. "It shows what the team means to the community, and we are so appreciative of the host families and how good the communities are to us; it's a great way to give back," he said.
Jared Habershaw of Kingstown, R.I., is a second-season Steeplecat. He said that he is glad to be back in the Berkshires. "We get to see so many friendly faces, and it's nice to make connections off the field," he said.
Town Selectmen walked the route, as did state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams.
Isabella Champney, 10, of North Adams, said she is glad to live in the United States. "I can become whatever I want," she said .
Sophia Cook, 6, of Williamstown, was enjoying the waving flags and the candy that many marchers tossed to the spectators. "It's a really good parade," she said. "I like the fire trucks."
Olivia Cook, 10, recalled participating in past parades as a baton twirler. "My favorite part is when the fire trucks sound the sirens," she said.
Participants marched from Southworth Street along Route 2 and onto Spring Street. The parade concluded at the Spring Street parking lot. A community picnic followed the parade.
In addition to the town police and fire departments, members of the Village Ambulance Service, Images Cinema, Williams College Museum of Art, The Clark; the Williamstown Community Pre-School, Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, the Williamstown League of Women Voters, Williamstown Community Chest, Starlight Stage Theater, Williamstown Historical Museum, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and several horse farms participated during the parade.