PITTSFIELD — After a decade-long absence, the Precision and Pageantry Drum & Bugle Corps competition returns to Wahconah Park on Sunday, sounding the start of the city's Independence Day celebration.
The first of four well-rehearsed marching bands from around the Northeast take the field following the Berkshire-based Eagles Band performing the "Star Spangled Banner" and a patriotic medley. The anticipated two-hour show begins at 7 p.m., gates opening at 5 p.m.
The outdoor musical extravaganza doubles as a fundraiser for the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade Committee as the all-volunteer organization makes last-minute preparations for Monday's procession through downtown Pittsfield.
Parade officials hope for a capacity crowd at Wahconah Park on Sunday evening, but until this weekend, ticket sales for the drum and bugle corps event have been lagging, according to parade committee president Peter Marchetti.
"We've been pounding the pavement to sell tickets," he said. "It doesn't look good if a fundraiser loses money."
Since Marchetti appeared on several local radio shows on Friday and the official parade program came out on Saturday, the music competition has become one of the hottest tickets in town.
"Before Friday, we sold 250, but doubled that on Friday and we need 1,000 just to break even," he noted.
Reviving the drum and bugle corps competition ties in nicely with this year's parade theme, "Music and Dance Through the Years," paying homage to Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and other Berkshire cultural attractions, according to parade officials. Last held in 2006, the show often was associated with most parades going back to the mid-1980s.
Monday's parade lineup has 174 marching units, including sponsors' banners, that should 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.
World War II veteran Tony Pastore, known for his stirring renditions of the national anthem, is the parade grand marshal.
In 1943, 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 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.
Considered one of the nation's top Fourth of July parades, the local star-spangled affair through the city's downtown draws tens of thousands of people each year and his staffed by hundreds of volunteers, the majority working on parade day.
Pittsfield Community Television will air the event live on Channel 16, starting with a pre-parade show at 9:30 a.m. featuring actors and staff from Barrington Stage Company. The broadcast will live stream on both the PCTV and parade committee's websites.
Parking restrictions along the parade route and side streets being used for the staging area will be in effect and enforced from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
As for fundraising, parade organizers need about another $30,000 to meet the annual $85,000 goal needed to stage the event.
Prior to the two-hour event, parade volunteers form a bucket brigade, carrying red, white and blue pails along the route seeking donations from paradegoers. The last-minute fundraising typically generates another few thousand dollars.
Additionally, the parade committee and the Oldies but Goodies Rock 'n Roll Show are collaborating on a fourth consecutive benefit concert scheduled for Oct. 21 and 22. The fundriaser has typically brought in another $10,000 to help pay parade expenses.
For individual donations, go online at www.pittsfieldparade.com. Checks are also welcome and made payable to Pittsfield Parade Committee Inc., P.O. Box 1738, Pittsfield, MA 01202.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.
If you go ...
What: Precision and Pageantry Drum and Bugle Corps competition
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, gates open at 5 p.m.
Where: Wahconah Park, Pittsfield
Tickets: Day of show, $20, box seats $25.