PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Fourth of July Parade has been canceled for the first time since 1977, a victim of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Parade officials say it is not possible to put on the parade within the social distancing guidelines of staying 6 feet apart.
The parade brings thousands of people to the city's downtown as participants or as viewers who line the streets from the Colonial Theatre to historic Wahconah Park to watch the marching bands, floats, balloons and units.
"We have been following the current situation and believe it would not be prudent to have a gathering the size of the parade under the current conditions," said Pittsfield Parade Committee President Peter Marchetti in a statement released Thursday evening. "We know that each year we have a couple thousand people lining up in the assembly area for the parade as well as thousands of spectators lining the parade route.
"It is very disappointing that we need to cancel this year's event after the community rallied last year behind the parade to save it."
The parade had been struggling financially in recent years and dipping into reserves to keep going. Once word got out last year of its fragile condition, numerous organizations and volunteers began raising funds and sending in donations to ensure that the parade would continue.
The effort was so successful, the committee was able set aside the money to fund this year's parade.
But "A Star Spangled Fourth" march through the city's downtown will have to wait until next year.
The state is just starting to emerge from the novel coronavirus pandemic that's killed more than 6,000 Bay Staters, including 37 in Berkshire County.
The Department of Public Health's guidelines continue to warn against large groups in close proximity -- only gatherings of less than 10 are allowed at this time -- and these cautions are expected to last for the next several months. The city has already canceled the popular Third Thursday events for May and June.
"This was a tough decision for the Parade Committee and I commend them for taking seriously the public health threat that still exists because of Covid-19," said Mayor Linda Tyer. "I am confident that next year's parade will be better than ever because we will come together to celebrate victory over Covid-19."
The parade won't be marching but the committee is working on a way to distribute the annual poster that alway accompanies it. This year's poster for the themed "A Star Spangled Fourth" parade is a rendition of fireworks over historic Wahconah Park.
"The committee recognizes that some people collect the parade posters and they are currently working on finding a way to make this year's supply available to the public for free while supplies last," Marchetti wrote.
In an effort to recognize the parade, the Parade Committee is teaming up with Pittsfield Community Television to re-air all of the archived parades in their entirety starting Friday, July 3.
"PCTV will air a special historical program about the long history of the parade going back to the origins and a special 'Parade Retrospective' show," said PCTV Executive Director Shawn Serre. "The show would be like a director’s cut of parade highlights going back through our archives. We feel that we can do something to make this year's 4th of July as normal as possible. This will take some work by PCTV staff and parade committee members."
The parade dates back to the 1820s and has been a regular time-honored tradition for at least 100 years. It had been put on by the firefighters association from 1947 until the 1976 bicentennial parade and then resumed in 1978 under the current volunteer parade committee.
Organizers say COVID-19 may have won for the moment but the parade will come back strong in 2021.
"At the end of the day it is about maintaining the safety of the residents of Berkshire County winning out over taking a chance with a parade," Marchetti said.
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Michael Ferry has been elected Berkshire County Arc's chairman of the Board of Directors. He has been serving as the board's treasurer for 16 years.
Ferry brings to the position more than 30 years with Berkshire Bank, most recently as senior vice president, commercial regional president, for Berkshire County and Vermont regions.
"I look forward to working with the board and BCArc's staff to ensure the continued delivery of services to our individuals and families, while maintaining the financial stability of the agency into the future," Ferry saud. "There will always be new challenges, new regulations, a changing economy, and leadership. Our duty as a board is to insure delivery of services for those we care so much for."
Ferry said the diverse expertise of the board members help provide needed vision for the future. Board members include professionals in the areas of disabilities, law, education, finance, health care and private business.
"I believe it's important we continue to widen the expertise of the board in terms of experience, diversity, and community relations," he said.
Ferry holds a bachelor's degree from Saint Michaels College in Colchester, Vt. He has served on numerous boards in the community, including board president of the Berkshire Housing Development Corporation & Berkshire Housing Services Inc., board member of "EforAll" Berkshire County, and a former board member and current member of the finance committee for Berkshire United Way, committee member for the Dalton Development and Industrial Commission, and a volunteer coach with the Special Olympics Massachusetts.
Superintendent Jason McCandless told the School Committee last week that there will be recalls of some of the 140 nonrenewal notices sent out prior to the passage of the $64 million budget.
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