22nd annual edition of Boom Box Parade will step off July 4

By David Hinchey
Chronicle Staff Writer
June 30, 2007

WILLIMANTIC--Dust off the boom boxes, it's time for the 22nd annual, world-renowned, 4th of July Boom Box Parade.

The parade, which was started in 1986 after no marching band could be found, has no official theme and anyone can march--provided they wear some sort of red, white, and blue.

"We're big time excited," said parade grand marshal and WILI radio personality Wayne Norman, who said officials are hopeful of breaking the 104-minute long record set last year.

The parade will organize at Jillson Square on Main Street between 9 and 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and officially steps off at 11 a.m.

The parade is one of the region's best attended parades, and brings thousands into the city.

It lasts for more than an hour and a half, as marchers parade the seven-tenths of a mile west on Main Street to Memorial Park.

Norman stressed that everyone should bring a boom box--a portable radio for you young folks--so there are no "dead" zones or spots along the route without music.

Norman, whose wacky costumes have highlighted past parades, did not reveal what his costume will be this year, but said it would be "tied to a significant anniversary."

"That's all I can reveal," he said.

Last year, Norman dressed as the King of Willimantic, sitting atop a huge Boom Box.

In 2005 he sported red hair and a 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox jersey while he "paddled" a kayak.

In years past, he's also ridden an adult tricycle, driven a go-cart and worn a University of Connecticut Husky basketball uniform.

Norman said he has two theories about the parade turnout this year.  He said with the holiday falling mid-week, people may ten to stick closer to home than if they had a three-day weekend.

However, Norman said, the size of the parade could also be smaller because it won't have the "proliferation of politicians," saying last year was an election year and featured a host of high profile politicians working the crowd.

Norman said that over the years the size of the parade has grown and the number of spectators has dwindled slightly, because spectators have joined the ranks of participants--going from watching to walking.

The history of the parade dates to Memorial Day 1986 when Kathleen "Boom Box Mama" Clark approached Norman and suggested the concept of the parade.

Five weeks later, the concept was formed, as WILI (1400-AM) played marching band music while onlookers watched the 44-minute parade.

The parade size has since doubled, with entries including a "baby boomers unit," (parents pushing children in strollers), a precision drill team (marchers holding drills), and other decorated floats, according to a release.

The Traveling Fish Head Club of Northeast Connecticut also highlights the parade, as does the Haggerty family's entry which involves as many as 100 members of the family.
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