The World’s Shortest July 4th Parade

It was 40 years ago that Moscow, Vermont residents celebrated America’s Bicentennial with their very first parade. But further research showed the first parade was a year earlier, and was urged upon the town by a bunch of kids. I was not at the first, but at the second parade, on July 4, 1976. which I photographed. I wrote and photographed the following article, that appeared 40 years later in the July 4 edition of the Stowe Reporter:

Moscow 3a copy            Erika and Disa Nourjian hold their Bicentennial Banner they made from a bed sheet.
Moscow 2 copy a copy
The shortest parade. Paul DeCelle in the French military hat leads the 1976 parade that took 15 minutes . The band music was supplied by the local radio station and played in boom boxes carried on the shoulders of the Moscow All Men Marching Band, non who owned or played an instrument.

 

JULY 4th, 1976: 10 AM. Paul DeCelle, owner of DeCelle’s Market,postmaster and unofficial mayor of Moscow, robed in black like a judge and wearing a French military hat favored by DeGaulle (“Apres le deluge…Moi!”) began the Moscow July 4th parade, the first to be held in Moscow, Vermont (well now, really?)

Holding an American flag he marched behind a bicentennial banner and a small group of Moscow residents as he led the parade from the Stackpole home past DeCelle’s store for about 200 yards, turned around and marched back to the store did a daisy- do by the Smith house and dispersed for bloody mary’s on Jane James’ front porch and hotdogs from Decelle’s market. All the kids were sucking popsicles.

They called it the World’s Shortest Parade (Hmm, well for that year) and truly it was over in a blink of the eye, in the sense that we, this 40th anniversary of that moment, remember it. Just a blink.

The first bicentennial parade began in the kitchen of Jane James’ home, which lived across the street from Decelle’s. Rudy and Tom Hamilton were having drinks with Jane, who had a post-modernist sense of humor. So they designed the parade. Paul and his wife joined and put up a poster announcing it. Charlie Lusk called WDEV and asked them to play marching music for 15 minutes so the sound blared out of the boom boxes on the shoulders of the Moscow All Men Marching Band. Not to be undone, the Ladies Lawn Chair Brigade followed up. The carried folding chairs and every 40 feet or so stopped, opened the chairs, sat down, got up, and then did it again and again. Behind the two Moscow marching units were the kids on bicycles and a couple of lawn tractors. Paige Stackpole led a pony cart filled with youngsters, one who appears terrified. Ed Rhodes was in a revolutionary uniform looking fabulous, Martha Walker wore an antique dress and floppy hat, the horsemen followed and then, in the behind of the parade, so to speak, were the latest residents of Moscow, Kitty Ross and Alan Coppock. Their job was to shovel up the horse manure and put it in the kid’s cart they wheeled. (Later Ward Rice and his wife held the post of Behind the Parade but Ward recalls there were no horses when they marched, as the horses were scared off by the Fire engine sirens and that was the end of a mounted parade. Ward and his wife walked with nothing to scoop up! Ward recalls that the problem was rectified in the next parade where the last to move to Moscow wheeled a cart of horse manure, dumped it out on the street and then one would shovel it back in).

Tractor Moscowa 4  (2)                                              Tom Hamilton  tootling along with the kids.

Yes, we would now call it a July 4th parade with a post modern, quirky sense of humor, thanks to that get together the night before at Jane James’s home.

But above all, look at the faces in the photographs. They were happy. Their body language was loose and welcoming. After all, they were neighbors and they knew each other and partied together. Moscow was a close-knit, blink-of-the-eye village. The West Branch flowed past, they were brook trout to be caught and there was a swimming hole easily walked to from DeCelle’s Market.

What a neat little… hamlet? Stowe people peered down upon the Moscow residents while the Muscovites did the same to the Stowe people, but they smiled when they played that game. Some say Moscow, Vermont was named after the chimes from the church in Moscow, Russia and maybe that town doesn’t blow its horn and beside, Moscow, Vermont didn’t have a bell tower, or, at the time of the parade, a church. Again, a post modern thought.

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. The first Moscow parade was in 1975, a year earlier! Yes it was! And it took a day of research with calls to those who moved away from Moscow and could still remember that day. Anna Stein, Paige’s daughter now living in South Burlington did most of the digging.

The first parade also began at the Stackpole house, and marched a couple of yards to the Smith house and back. Didn’t even make it to Decelle’s. “Too short, said a marcher. “Let’s do it again.” In the parade were half a dozen Moscow friends and a bunch of kids.

So who first started the very first Moscow Parade? It was a call from Paige Stackpole to Charlie and Anne Lusk.

Paige Savage, Moscow 4th.  copy
Paige Stackpole an instigator of the very first Moscow parade,  was pony lead at the second parade in 1976.

“Well, they organized it, but we started it, “ said Anna, Paige’s daughter, who rode a horse. “We all wanted to parade and ride our horses and decorate our bikes. We complained enough so it happened.” It was a kid’s parade, yes it was.

Anne and Charlie Lusk lived a few houses down from the Stackpoles. Anne was outside when the parade passed, smiling and clapping. Her belly looked as big as a basketball for she was a week past term. Charlie carried a radio to play the march music he arranged with the local radio station play during the parade but the darn radio just crackled and moaned and that’s why, in 1976, it morphed into the multi- blaring, boom boxes of the Moscow Alli Men’s Marching Band.

Anne Lusk , from her home in Boston, remembered so well the moment and that first parade.

“It was so small, she said, that if you weren’t there you didn’t know about it”

Just a blink in time. The parade we know today was actually the work of Jane James and the Hamiltons; both moved to town after that first parade of 1975. So yes, this is their parade.

Just a blink. The marching bands of boom boxes and chairs remain in place it’s style is eroded. Decelle’s Market was sold. Ginny his wife had a stroke and then a murder of one of their children and the need of carrying on under such weight; Now Paul is gone. So is Ed Rhodes, so fine in his revolutionary outfit. Al Coppock passed way too quickly and so did post modern art spark Jane James and easy going Wendy, Bruce’s first wife, of breast cancer.

On the other hand…Erika Nourjian joined the financial world and lived in the Carribbean, but retired early. Disa has three children and lives in Burke. Ruth has a child that was in the parade but now lives in Norway. I too lived in Moscow until a divorce removed me to an unheated attic in Colbyville. Just before the Parade my ex wife moved with our children to England. Now my daughter Dodie has an import business and the best Mexican restaurant in London but after Brexit, she and her husband may become Scottish passport holders.

Just a blink. Ruth and her husband Tom were in the 1976 parade and live in the same house. She wants to bring back the parade to the friendliness that it was and is making changes. She will be serving hot dogs at her home down the street from Paul’s Market which is becoming a show room for a furniture maker. And how about those bloody mary’s???

Just a blink in a lifetime, that is all it is, but it’s a good one!

Erika and hand made sign,ba Moscow 4th.                                                Erika and hand made sign,July 4, 1976

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1 Comment

  1. Wendy Klix on July 1, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Just back from a short visit to the NEK and greeted with this treat of a story! Thank you! Hope you get to enjoy a Bloody Mary this 4th!

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