Parade prep begins

Memorial Day and the start of the traditional summer season are still weeks away, but members of the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade Committee are already deep in preparation mode for the annual patriotic celebration.
Already, the committee has announced the parade’s theme — “Bethany Beach Celebrates the Five Freedoms” — and its grand marshal: Joe McHugh.

The “five freedoms” refer to freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition. And McHugh is notable in his grand marshal position not only as the town’s former mayor but also as a long-time parade supporter and committee member.

The 2005 parade will be the 21st outing, and is set for noon on July 4 itself, to be followed by contests, awards, entertainment and an evening fireworks display. The event is designed to be a display of “small-town Americana.”

Already lined up to participate in the parade are two “mummer” groups: the Downtowners Fancy Brigade and Two Street String Band, and three other marching bands: Tidewater Brass Band, the German Brass Band and the Delmar District Bagpipe Band.

Entertainers in the parade will also include Al Santoro & The Hi-Liters, the Back Bay Strummers, local steel-drum players from the Southern Delaware School of the Arts’ Steel the Show, barbershop singing by The Nautical Sounds, Joe Ragan’s one-piece poker band and the Shriners’ mini-Corvettes.

Local community groups and businesses are also welcome to enter a float or marching group in the parade.

And, along with formal floats and marching groups, the annual parade traditionally features patriotically decorated bicycles ridden by bicyclists of all ages. The parade committee provides decoration kits to those interested in cycling the parade route.

Registration for parade participants —from bicyclists to floats and walking groups — will be held from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on the day of the parade, on the grounds of the Christian Church in downtown Bethany Beach.

Awards for parade participants will be presented on the town’s bandstand at 3 p.m. after the parade.

However, a fond farewell will be said to one parade tradition this year: the house-decorating contest. The event is being cancelled due to limited participation in the past, according to committee members.

The horseshoe contest is on, though, to begin at the conclusion of the parade (approximately 2 p.m.) on the grounds of the church.

Committee Chairman Phil Rossi noted that while the town provides logistical help to organizers each year, funds to cover the costs of putting on the parade are raised through donations from local citizens, businesses and organizations. (The Sussex County Council recently agreed to put $750 toward the parade expenses.)

For more information on the parade plans or on ways to participate, call the town hall at (302) 539-8011.