by Julie A. Varughese
    Norwich Bulletin
     July 5, 2006
WILLIMANTIC -- It was a day for regular folks. 
The Boom Box Parade, Willimantic's annual Fourth of July extravaganza, attracted a few thousand people Tuesday, and extended for about a mile through the center of town.
It is called the Boom Box Parade because, in 1986, radio station WILI provided marching band music for the parade because it no longer had any marching bands willing to participate.
The parade has evolved into a zany free-for-all in which anything goes.  Residents said what makes the parade unique is anyone can have a float.
"Regular people can build a float," said Sara Chapman, 25, of Jewett City, who has been attending the parade for 15 years.  "This y ear I got to ride a tow truck, so I'm excited."
This year political groups, nonprofit organizations, and a Mardi Gras-themed float all had their day in the spotlight.
Children rushed out into the street to retrieve wrapped candies, get beads thrown at them and get splashed with a water hose on a sweltering hot day.
Alejandro Gonzalez, 35, of Willimantic, who has been coming to the parade for 11 years, said he likes everything about the parade.   "He likes to bring his kids," said his niece, Maria Tovar, 33, who translated for him.  Gonzalez has three children.
Tovar of Texas said she thought this was one of the better parades she has attended.  "This is much better, much more fun," she said.
"It's child-friendly," said Dennis Cronin, 48, of Willimantic, who was holding his 8-month old daughter Rhian.   "Anybody can go in the parade and that's great," he said.  "It gives everybody a chance to speak."
He said when his children get older, and when he finds a social cause or just for the enjoyment of his children, he would like to march in the parade with them.
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