by Allison Pratt
Willimantic Chronicle
July 5, 1995
WILLIMANTIC--  Music was only a part of the message of this Independence Day as the Greater Willimantic area celebrated the holiday with the 10th annual Boom Box Parade.
Marchers decked out in red, white, and blue (and of course in fish and flamingos) carried greetings from civic groups, churches and other organizations while strolling to the beat of "76 Trombones" and "Yankee Doodle."
The parade was led off by the James J. Shea Post of the American Legion and WILI Radio's master of ceremonies, morning disc jockey Wayne Norman, dressed in a University of Connecticut basketball uniform, tall hat and shoe-box radios on his feet.
Food was a popular theme in this year's parade.  Carol Foster of Windham school system's food service department led a contingent of bananas, peanuts and fish, including marchers with bagels and Cheerios for earrings.  She had a large cardboard food pyramid on her head.  "I took aspirin before I left home," referring to her costume's weight.
"We wanted to do something last year and never got it together," she continued.  "Lisa Danburg from the high school food service thought up the idea to represent different parts of the food pyramid."
Also adorned in various vegetables were friends and supporters of the Covenant Soup Kitchen, who were promoting their upcoming "Squash Hunger" event to be held the last weekend in July.  Led by the banner "Don't be a vegetable -- Squash Hunger," were marcher Gunnel Stenberg, dressed as a "hot tomato," and Karen Stevens and Ann Abotte, whose costumes reflected their sign's slogan "Let there be peas on earth."
Animals also marched along the parade route.  In addition to the bandanna-bedecked dogs, there were large pink flamingos dressed as WILI radio staff, Norwich Navigators mascot Tater The Gator, a zebra that looked like a Volkwagen Beetle, a red, white and blue butterfly on roller skates, a lion, a cow, a goat, and a hay filled wagonload of riders with pig noses.  There were fish of all sizes, from the small to the tall, as the Traveling Fish Head Club of Northeastern Connecticut flip-flopped up Main Street along the parade route from Jillson Square to Memorial Park, squirting water at the crowds.
Other area groups enjoyed the celebration and the opportunity to promote local causes.  The Windham Area Habitat for Humanity once again built a playhouse which rolled along the street.  Last yaer, the group built a similar playhouse whic was later raffled off as a fund-raiser.  "We hope to make (the playhouse raffle) an annual event," said Habitat's Ed Ritz.
Other groups promoting a cause were Joshua's Trust, a Windham region land preservation group, whose banner read "Preserve Family Lands."   The Committee for Windham's Future promoted unity among the town's residents with the sign "Unete con nosotros,"  Other signs declared, "Give our children a chance -- support education" and "You can't beat a woman -- end violence against women."
David Wollner, co-ownder of the Main Street Cafe, drove a truck promoting the restaurant and wore a shirt promoting an organization called Beer Drinkers of America, which read, "Don't tax my beer."  Wollner, who just just became the organization's chapter chairman for the 2nd Congressional District, explained that the organization promotes responsibile drinking and opposes so-called "sin taxes" on beer.  "Over 80 million beer drinkers drink responsibly," he said.
Several churches were represented, among them the Abundant Life Community Church whose traveling puppet truck impressed the crowd.  Puppets of all sizes waved and danced from the back of the truck.
"We have a puppet ministry and we like to use our puppets to help us go out and spread the good news that Jesus loves the little children of the world," explained church member Maggie Ashton.  "And we use our youth (in puppet costumes) so they can have fun in service to the community."
Youngsters were everywhere, from babies to teens, many creeping into the street to scramble for the handfuls of candy thrown from the parade vehicles.  There were children in red, white, and blue, children in ball team uniforms, even tap dancing children in the parade.
Mansfield residents Steve Lane and Julie Menard brought their two children to the parade, as they do every year.  "It's a great local event," said Menard.  "We see a lot of people that we know.  As a matter of fact, we were asked to march with a couple of different groups, and we didn't want to because it's so much fun to watch it."
Patricia Gaenzler, who lives downtown, said she's been attending the parade for about the last five years.  "I love the fact that it's so eclectic, that anybody who wants to be in it can be in it," she said.  "I think it's an important tradition.  I think the Fourth Of July is an important holiday."
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