Photo Gallery: 58th annual Fall Foliage Paraded
NORTH ADAMS -- Thousands of people stood braving cool weather and the threat of autumn rain to attend the 58th annual Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Parade on Sunday afternoon.
"We've been doing this for years," 57-year-old North Adams resident Nick Mantello said. Mantello sat with three generations of his family on Main Street, where the family placed chairs Saturday to secure their spots along the parade route. "The social atmosphere is what it's all about," he said. This is the 50th year Mantello has attended the parade.
This year's Fall Foliage Parade featured the theme "Haunts, Legends, and Ghost Stories." The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, who organized the parade, selected local historian Paul W. Marino as this year's grand marshal. Marino is no stranger to the parade's theme; he conducts walking tours of Hillside Cemetery during the Halloween season.
"Most people would say it's an enormous honor and go on along those lines, but I'm just enjoying myself," Marino said Sunday.
Mantello's daughter-in-law offered one memorable moment from her years attending the parade. "[U.S. Sen.] Ted Kennedy marched in the parade when I was young," Chantal Pinsonneault, 32, said. "My mom pushed me out to shake his hand, and said, ‘Trust me you'll thank me later.' She was right," the North Adams resident said.
Thanks to the procession's theme, this year's parade may be best remembered for its haunting floats.
"We start with nothing and you turn around and it's all there," Frank Goodermote said as he admired the First Baptist Church's float based on the Hoosac Tunnel. Goodermote was one of the many volunteers who prepared the float for this year's parade. The float, named "A light at the End of the Tunnel," featured a replica of a steam locomotive coming out of the famed tunnel heading toward a cross.
"I'm very happy they got the wheels to turn and the smoke to come out. They really brought it to life," float designer Janice Poirot said. Poirot drew up the design for the float in the last week of August and a team of church volunteers worked nights to get it ready in time for Sunday's parade.
This year's top honor for best parade float went to JStar Gymnastics and Zumba in the Berkshires for their float, based on the Michael Jackson hit song "Thriller." The float featured a troupe of performers that danced and wore costumes based on the original MTV music video.
For some attendees at the parade, the floats weren't the biggest highlight this year.
"I really liked the Shriners' cars," 6-year-old Riley Bargie said after the diminutive cars, trucks and motorcycles of the Melha Shriners of Springfield passed him. The Shriners took turns driving go-cart sized vehicles over a ramp built on a large Chevrolet Suburban to the delight of crowds. Riley attended the parade with his parents, Kailyn Haskins and Matt Bargie.
"We've been coming to this for years, since I was his age, we never miss this," Bargie, 23, said.
Local dignitaries, including Mayor Richard Alcombright, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and United Independent Party gubernatorial candidate Evan Falchuk marched in the parade.
For some of the Fall Foliage Parade attendees, this was their first year witnessing the annual parade.
"This is the first year I've been in town for the parade. It's good to see this many people out," 26 year-old Caitlin Allard said. Allard moved to North Adams from Ashburnham three years ago, and was impressed by the parade. "The marching bands are pretty awesome," she said as the Hoosac Valley High School Band marched in front of her.
"We had a lot of [parade] participants coming in that didn't sign up originally. It's going to be a lot bigger than we expected," Parade Director Danielle Thomas said shortly before the parade began at 1 p.m. This was the first year Thomas directed the parade. "It's going to turn out very great. I'm very happy."