Willimantic's unconventional Boom Box Parade a labor of fun

by Greg Smith
Norwich Bulletin
July 5, 2008

Willimantic, Conn. —

It’s a Fourth of July parade where you’re as likely to see people dressed as frogs as in traditional red, white and blue.


The annual Willimantic Boom Box Parade never has been the type of celebration to follow convention and revels in its quirkiness.

“Everybody does their own thing. There’s no real supervision. There’s a little bit of everything,” said John Postemski, 75, who rode a Ford Model T with other members of the Four Seasons Club.

Thousands of people gathered Friday along Main Street to watch the unique mix of floats and walking civic groups, war protesters, politicians and businesses.

Giant bugs decorated cars, Richard Nixon was towed in a cage, and ancient Egyptians danced on a Willimantic Brewing float. Frog costumes apparently were an homage to the frogs that adorn the bridge in Willimantic.  

As tradition dictates, the eclectic mix of marching music was broadcast from local radio station WILI 1400 AM.


Perched on a spool like the frogs on the Willimantic Frog Bridge, Sydney Brierley, 7, of Coventry gets a high five Friday from Jordan Duvall of Miamisburg, Ohio as Brierley prepares to ride on the Frog Leap float in the Willimantic Boom Box Parade.  Tali Greener photo/Norwichbulletin.com

The idea for the boom box parade was conceived in 1986 by WILI radio personality and parade marshal Wayne Norman.

Shortly after the Windham Memorial Day Parade failed to get a marching band, the radio station urged residents to bring boom boxes on the Fourth — promising their own parade music. The tradition was born.

Barbara Cuebas, 62, of Willimantic said she hasn’t missed a year yet and enjoys the creativity of it all. Sporting a patriotic shirt and clutching a lawn chair, American flag and umbrella, Cuebas tilted her head to accept a necklace around her neck from a passing parade-goer.  

“I look forward to the Fourth of July every year for this,” she said.

It was the first year for Rich Grindal, 32, of Mansfield. With wife Melissa and two children, Grindal waited to catch a glimpse of grandma — “Meme” to the children —  passing by in her beekeeper’s hat along with other members of the Eastern Connecticut Beekeepers Association. The group tossed out Bit-O-Honeys to the crowd.

Friday’s parade was held in dry conditions, despite threatening cloud formations overhead.

“I was sitting at home this morning watching the rain come down,” Grindal said. “I didn’t know if we’d make it or not.”

Reach Greg Smith at 425-4219 or gasmith@norwichbulletin.com

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