WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The head of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce is as surprised as anyone that the organization will once more hold one of its signature events in a little more than a month.
But on Wednesday morning, Sue Briggs announced that the town's Hometown Parade is on for 11 a.m. on July 4.
"If you had asked me this three or four weeks ago, the answer was: There's absolutely no way," Briggs said. "But as soon as the governor made that decision to reopen the economy, and as soon as some of our events, like Williams' Senior Celebration, had a good reception and it was clear that people were anxious to get out, it seemed like the right thing to do.
"It's going to be a busy month."
As it has since 2017, the town's Independence Day celebration will be capped with a 9:30 p.m. fireworks show at the Taconic Golf Club. On Wednesday morning, Jane Patton, the general manager of Taconic's clubhouse, said the club is finalizing plans for the evening, which she hopes will include the cookout that has been part of the event in years past.
Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to all the town's July 4 events. Briggs said the chamber's parade committee has been talking about how to celebrate the day this year for some time. Those talks accelerated with Gov. Charlie Baker's May 17 announcement.
Some things won't be the same as years past. There won't be a post-parade cookout in the Spring Street parking lot. There won't be a pie-baking contest that drew a large crowd inside the Williams College Bookstore on July 4, 2019. Images Cinema, which is still operating under capacity limits, won't offer films in the afternoon. And the Williamstown Theatre Festival's traditional reading of the founding documents will be virtual this time around, Briggs said.
The chamber reached out to the interim town manager, interim police chief and health inspector, and all were supportive of the decision to revive the parade, Briggs said.
Perhaps as important: So were those who traditionally march in the parade.
"I did a soft outreach last week to some of our more consistent marchers," Briggs said. "I thought, it's lovely if we have a parade, but if we don't have anyone in it, that's a problem.
"Some of them were instantaneous saying, 'Yes, we're in.' A couple said, 'Let me check with our board,' and they came back and said yes. Some were a little more conservative, and to them we say, ‘Decorate a vehicle or create a trailer. Define your own bubble if you're not comfortable walking.' "
The same goes for spectators who traditionally crowd both sides of Spring Street to watch the parade. Briggs noted that the Chamber would not have the authority to require masks even if it wanted to, but like the businesses it serves, it respects the choices that individuals choose to make.
"So much is going to change so quickly," Briggs said. "We're all in different places with our comfort level about masks. My recommendation to businesses is: You need to do what's best for your employees and your customers. That's probably where we'll land [with the parade]. Do what you need to do to make it an enjoyable day."
Patton said the golf club is taking the same approach.
"We recognize some people may not feel great about gathering in big groups," Patton said. "Find your favorite spot in Williamstown and enjoy the fireworks in your own way. While we love the fact that people come to the course, [the cookout] is a break even thing for us. It's not a revenue generator.
"If you watch it on the fairway or from your driveway, we just want you to enjoy it."
That said, Patton appreciates the opportunity to gather and celebrate the holiday and the ability to gather itself.
"It feels hopeful," Patton said. "It feels lighter. I think we all, in our own way, carried the weight and the enormity of what the whole country and the whole world went through.
"As horrible as it is for the 600,000 Americans who didn't make it through this and the countless people impacted by those losses and the frontline workers dealing with this — to kind of come out on the other side of it, we should be celebrating that. I feel like we're celebrating that as much as anything else, at least in my heart."
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Berkshire DA: Up to Towns to Handle Officers on 'Brady List'
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — If Select Board members hoped the Berkshire County district attorney would offer direction on how the town should deal with the impact of having a police officer on her office's "Brady list," they were very disappointed.
Twice during an hourlong presentation at Monday's Select Board meeting, District Attorney Andrea Harrington said it was not her office's place to tell towns how to respond when the county's prosecutor decides one of the municipality's law enforcement officers has a history that needs to be revealed to defense attorneys or, worse, that an officer's history is so concerning that he or she cannot be used as a prosecution witness without approval of a supervisor.
The town currently has 11 full-time officers — including one on administrative leave since March and another pulling double duty as lieutenant and interim chief. A third has been placed on Harrington's "do not call" list, meaning the DA has determined the officer has "made misrepresentations about material facts in a criminal investigation," she said Monday in Williamstown Elementary School's gymnasium.
Some in the community have wondered whether having an officer on the do-not-call list, particularly when the department already is short-handed, creates an issue for the department's efficiency. Many residents have suggested that the town should remove the officer on the list and replace him with an officer who can be fully functional.
If Select Board members hoped the Berkshire County district attorney would offer direction on how the town should deal with the impact of having a police officer on her office's "Brady list," they were very disappointed. click for more
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The Williamstown Cares Community Assessment and Research project came under fire for what some alleged is an attempt to draw a "biased" sample of respondents to study the community's public safety needs. It also was defended by residents who made the case that the town needs to hear from voices... click for more
Fast forward another 45 years, and Elissa Watters, then a graduate student studying at the Williams College Museum of Art, saw some of the 1972 Munich Olympic posters in the college's collection. That moment in 2017 sparked an interest in both the art and politics of those posters and how they... click for more
The committee advising the Select Board on the selection of the next town manager is launching a multi-front effort to gather input from the community about its priorities for the next occupant of the corner office at Town Hall. click for more