Parades, patriotism and caution mark Independence holiday
July 4, 2002
Associated Press
By DONNA TOMMELLEO,  Associated Press Writer

Connecticut celebrated the first Independence Day since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with a mix of patriotism and caution. Small-town parades took on a new meaning this year, while police, the military and the Coast Guard kept a close eye on the state's roads, bridges, skies and waterways.

"Nine-eleven changed America and changed public safety as a whole," said state police spokesman Trooper Roger Beaupre.

Beaupre said there was no specific threat against anyone or anything in Connecticut, ensuring public safety was a top priority.

Throughout the state Thursday, trooper were not only watching out for speeders, but suspicious trucks. Working with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, police planned to stop trucks, check loads and drivers' credentials.

"We're beefing up security to maintain our freedom here in Connecticut," Beaupre told WFSB-TV.

State police investigated at least two fatal accident on state roads, but reported no unusual problems by late afternoon.

Meanwhile, communities large and small went about the business of celebrating America's 226th birthday with parades, fireworks and cookouts.

The small town of Columbia was among those celebrating the day with an annual parade.

Boy scouts and Brownie troops tossed Tootsie Rolls and lollipops to the children in the crowd.

State lawmakers waved from open cars. Volunteer firefighters got into squirt-gun fights with spectators.

There was little more applause for the police and fire crews. When a float made of concrete and wood debris, with a fire helmet and jacket perched atop a plywood cross passed by, there was silence.

"I've always been a flag-waver, but this year's a little bit more special," said Rob Poudrier of Hebron. "I think people appreciate a little more what this country is about considering what happened last fall, and I think the Fourth means a little bit more than it has in the past."

The annual Windham Boombox Parade was "a huge success," said parade marshal Wayne Norman.

Since 1986, the parade's music has been piped through portable radios carried by hundreds of marchers. It was started when a band couldn't be found for annual event. Local radio station WILI stepped in and provided the music.

This year, classic Sousa marches and other patriotic songs blared from the boxes down Main Street in Willimantic.

"Patriotism has always been an overriding theme in this parade," Norman said.

Thursday's parade was 90 minutes, the longest to date. A somber entry was Windham Tech's float that featured a tribute to the World Trade Center.

But there was also plenty of whimsy. Hundreds of marchers were dressed in all manner of fashion, from hillbillies to a group of marching fish heads.

"I think people are kind of learning that you just go out and have some fun and go out and take part," Norman said.

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