Photo Gallery | Lee Founders Weekend parade
LEE — Here is the reason the Founders Day Parade — and the whole Founders Day weekend — is a big deal for the community, according to Lee native Karen Larocque.
"Lee is one big clique," she said. She did not mean this in a disparaging manner. "I've lived in Stockbridge for years, but I spent the first 45 years of my life in Lee. I still consider it my hometown.
"And whenever I come back, it's like I never left," she continued. "All my girlfriends, people I've known since third grade, are here. I have a million family members, a million friends. You walk down the street and everybody knows you. Really it's like that TV show, 'Cheers.' Everybody does know your name. It's very comfortable here."
The Founders Day Parade is the centerpiece of Founders Day weekend, which celebrates the history and diversity of the town. Certainly, Saturday's Festival Latino, Friday's Taste of Lee and Sunday morning's Pancake Breakfast, sponsored by Lee Kiwanis, are big events in their own right. But the parade is the biggest draw in town, attracting several thousand observers.
Traffic is a little tricky, as Main Street is blocked off for about an hour, from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. while the parade moves through town.
Police chief Jeffrey Roosa explained that "we try to get people around the parade as best we can. We send local drivers over Fuller Road.
"The state Department of Transportation is pretty helpful," he said. "They put up signs on Route 7 and 20 and the Massachusetts Turnpike warning folks that the street is closed from 10 to 11 a.m. But sometimes, people get stuck in traffic. We tell them, 'Be patient, it's once a year and the road will be open soon.' "
The overall reaction to this year was a big "thumbs up", according to several observers.
"It's a wonderful parade, a great event," said James Wadsworth, the former president of Lee Bank, now retired.
Wadsworth has a unique perspective. He watches the parade now, but he used to march in it, as part of the Lee Bank contingent.
"Marched with my grandkids before I retired," he said.
The difference between marching and watching, said Wadsworth, is that "I got to throw candy to the kids on the sidewalk. I always enjoyed that."
One had to get to the parade route early for a seat. Howard Trombley, former principal at Monument Mountain Regional High School, now retired, was on Main Street at about 9:10 a.m.
That doesn't seem too early, he was told.
"It is," said Trombley "when you're used to getting up at 10 a.m. every morning."
There were a host of bands in Saturday's parade. One of them, the Berkshire Highlanders, observed it's 40th anniversary this year, according to Pamela Warwick of Great Barrington, one of the drummers in the band.
The Highlanders set list included "Scotland the Brave" and "Green Hills," according to Warwick.
"We call them tunes, because no one sings," she said.
The Highlanders have members from Berkshire County, New York state and Vermont, said Warwick. They practice on Wednesday nights in the cafeteria of Berkshire Community College.
If anyone aspires to be in a bagpipe band, she said, they are welcome to show up at BCC on a Wednesday. Even if one can't play bagpipes or drums, said Warwick, "we have instructors to give people lessons."
Although the street was closed off, shops and stores were still open. As were shops and stores on the many side streets along the parade route. Greg Arienti, longtime employee of Carberry Auto Parts on Railroad Street, caught the parade while standing on the steps of the business.
"I watched it from my front door here," said Arienti. "I had a great view."
And an unbroken stretch of time in which to watch the parade.
"Yeah," he said. "From about 10 a.m., business slows way down, because, obviously, cars can't get here. So I can watch the parade no problem.
"I love Founder's Weekend," he said. "The wife and I went to Taste of Lee on Friday, had a great time. It's a great community event."
The longest lines for any sidewalk attraction or business had to be the 50 cent ice cream line just up the street from the reviewing stand. Proceeds went to the Laliberte Toy Fund, a holiday fund that helps purchase toys for youngsters at Christmas.
The ice cream came in sugar cones. A woman, artfully balancing four cones in her two hands walked by a reporter. He identified vanilla, chocolate, cookie dough and a purple-colored ice cream.
What flavor is that, the reporter asked her.
The woman shrugged elaborately.
"Who cares?" She said. "It's ice cream. It's 50 cents. How bad can it be?"
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.