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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Biz Briefs: SABIC Donating to Local United Way to Support COVID-19 Response Efforts
SABIC, a global leader in diversified chemicals, is donating $25,000 to the Berkshire United Way to help serve the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from $1 million in monetary donations to food banks and community-based agencies in the communities where the company operates, SABIC, whose head office is based in Houston, also is donating approximately $500,000 of its products. SABIC products are used to manufacture personal protection equipment for healthcare workers and medical equipment such as ventilators, patient monitoring devices, face shields, respiratory therapy machines and diagnostic equipment.
The company, which operates the Polymer Processing Development Center in Pittsfield, Mass., also is donating face shields made with SABIC’s LEXAN polycarbonate sheet product to local police and fire departments. SABIC employees, too, are joining together to raise funds that will go to charitable organizations of their choice and the company is matching the employee contributions dollar-for-dollar.
SABIC currently operates 60 manufacturing and compounding plants in more than 50 countries worldwide.
Small business survey
The Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire has released a small business survey to assess the greatest needs of small businesses during this COVID-19 crisis. This Small Business Technical Assistance Needs Survey will help CDCSB focus professional technical assistance to businesses where they most need it for them to weather the devastating economic impact of the endemic. All businesses based in the southern Berkshires are encouraged to complete the survey by clicking here.
CDCSB is joining other western Massachusetts CDCs – Hilltown CDC, Franklin County CDC and Valley CDC (Northampton) – in seeking funding to provide free professional business assistance that can include legal and financial advice, strategic planning, access to capital, marketing, pivoting sales to a digital platform, or creating new product lines. This will significantly expand the capacity for small business assistance throughout western Mass., a central part of CDCSB’s economic development mission.
The CDCSB is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating job opportunities, promoting economic development, and building low-moderate income housing in the southern Berkshires. In collaboration with other local organizations, CDCSB has helped build over 60 affordable housing units, leveraged over $30 million in private and public funding for south Berkshire County and has a current development pipeline of 120 new affordable housing units.
"I never intended to stay involved this long, but after you see the love and respect the staff have for the people they serve, it's impossible to leave," he said. "And while it has been hard for me to resign, it's time for me to step down, allow for new leadership, and enjoy my retirement." click for more