Photo Gallery | 61st annual Fall Foliage Parade
NORTH ADAMS — Should "Old Faithful" ever dry up, a local church has a backup geyser.
The First Baptist Church replica of the iconic natural water fountain at Yellowstone National Park won best float honors at the 61st Fall Foliage Parade on Sunday afternoon.
The almost life-like man-made gusher captured the spirit of the event's salute to the 100th anniversary of America's National Park system. The Statue of Liberty and Cape Cod National Seashore featuring a shark-mobile circling a model of a lighthouse were among the other floats representing the country's national treasures.
Shooting nearly 300 gallons of water 20 feet straight up, the geyser float drew plenty of oohs and aahs from the thousands who lined the parade route.
"That's what we were hoping for," said Steve Meranti, a lead float builder. Meranti, who knows a little something about water under high pressure being the North Adams Fire Director, described the elaborate configuration of piping and mechanics to set the geyser off every few minutes to elicit a favorable crowd reaction.
"I was concerned we wouldn't have enough water [in the tank], but it worked out perfect," he said.
Except for some paradegoers getting wet from the "Old Faithful" float, the parade was rain-free for the thousands who lined the route from Ocean Job Lot on the Curran Highway to Ashland Street in downtown North Adams.
Nancy Lorge appreciated Mother Nature keeping them high and dry.
"I've sat in this parade wearing garbage bags [to stay dry,]" she said.
Nancy and her husband Al Lorge were perched on the lush green hillside of the First Congregational Church at the corner of Ashland and Main streets, the parade route's final turn before ending at the North Adams Housing Authority on Ashland.
"If I want I can roll down the hill," Al Lorge said of possibly reliving his younger years.
Under cloudy skies and the temperature hovering around 60 degrees, the 61 units featuring several area youth marching bands, police, fire and ambulatory vehicles and personnel from the city and surrounding communities pressed on without incident.
Grand Marshal Berkshire state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, accompanied by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, was honored to lead the parade in his waning days on Beacon Hill. Downing, a popular Massachusetts lawmaker, has opted against a re-election bid in November.
"I always highlight the parade on my calendar," he said. "There's always a welcoming crowd filled with friendly faces."
Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler walked behind of the Sheriff's office cruiser, continually breaking away to shake hands with well-wishers watching from curbside and taking an occasional picture. However, Bowler often had to "sprint" back into the procession to keep up.
"This is the most exercise I get all year," he quipped.
The high school marching bands from hometown Drury, followed by Pittsfield High and Hoosac Valley in Cheshire were in good form and sound. So too the Ichabod Crane Riders marching band and color guard from Valatie, N.Y. making their 30th Fall Foliage Parade appearance. Michael and Christine Foote, their daughter Stephanie and her friend Samantha Falconer, both band alums, were on hand to watch the Foote's son play the drums in one of their favorite parades.
"[North Adams] is a great New England town, not much different from Valatie," said Michael Foote.
The local flavor and continued community support for the Fall Foliage Parade is what the Berkshires is all about, noted Sheriff Bowler.
"With everything that's going on in the world today, it's nice to have events like this," he said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233