Playful, political Fall Foliage Parade in North Adams

Monday October 1, 2012

NORTH ADAMS -- Politicians, perky pugs and the possibility of parade participation in potential precipitation were three of the themes that permeated Sunday afternoon's annual Fall Foliage Parade.

A total of 12 floats and 75 marching units participated in the event, according to parade director Christine Hoyt. This year's theme was "Toys," she said.

Grand marshall for the parade was Bruce Hayden of North Adams, according to Veronica Bosley, director of tourism and community events for North Adams.

Hayden has been a longtime volunteer who has worked on floats for the past two decades, said Bosley.

The annual Fall Foliage Parade is a showcase for the floats created by various businesses and organizations. But it is also a venue for politicians to see and be seen. There was a minor milestone at Sunday's parade: Two sitting congressmen marched, something that has rarely happened in this parade, according to Eugene Dellea of West Stockbridge, a prominent member of the local Democratic Party.

They were John W. Olver, D-Amherst, and Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield. Olver will be retiring in January and Neal recently won the Democratic nomination for the redistricted 1st Congressional District. Although, in theory, Neal could face a Republican challenger in November, none has emerged.

"Let's just say it would be almost impossible at this time," said Neal. He added that he was honored to march with Olver.

"John's done a lot for this area," said Neal.

The other topic of conversation at the start of Sunday's parade was the rain, which fell intermittently throughout the afternoon. The precipitation was more pronounced early in the afternoon.

"There's a strategy to marching and there's a strategy to marching in the rain," said state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield. "Do you march with a raincoat on? Or off? If you march with it off, people say "Why wouldn't he put on his coat? What's wrong with him?"

But, as Downing noted, ‘if the rain is like this [very light at the time], no problem."

"I'm walking," said Berk shire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler. "My escorts are walking, so I'm walking -- it's as simple as that."

This was Neal's first North Adams parade, though he is no parade rookie.

"Over 24 years, quite a few," he said, when asked how many he'd participated in.

Another parade veteran was North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, who was participating in, by his own count, "at least 20. Three as mayor, 13 years on the City Council and before that, working on floats for Hoosac Savings Bank.

"My fondest memories are generally when I used to work on floats," he said. "We would spend weeks and weeks working on it, and parade day was always the culmination."

Two of the event's more cuddly participants were Oscar and Oliver, a pair of 11 2-year-old pugs. Oscar and Oliver are owned by Jill Gordon of North Adams. They marched in Saturday's Pet Parade in North Adams and won "Best Duo." Gordon dressed them as, believe it or not, Batman and Robin.

"It's a more whimsical event," said Bosley. "The winners in each category get to march [Sunday]."

The two little fur bundles were also media-savvy beasts, staring soulfully as a reporter interviewed Gordon.

"Oh, they love marching in the parade," she said "They did it last year."

And what, the reporter asked, were Oliver and Oscar clad as in 2011?

"A monkey and a banana," said Gordon proudly.

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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