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July 4th Marchers To Beat the Band By Bringing Radios

June 27, 1986

WINDHAM, Conn. (AP) _ Participants in this year’s Independence Day parade will be marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Organizers, who have been unable to line up a band, instead are asking the town’s 20,000 residents to carry portable radios tuned to a local station that will play John Philip Sousa music as they strut down Main Street.

″I look at this as sort of an alternate way of having a parade. This will be a slice of America,″ Kathleen Clark declared on Friday.

People who usually watch other parades will be the stars of this one, Mrs. Clark said. She is encouraging people to form marching units such as the ″baby-boomer stroller unit,″ the ″skateboard unit,″ and the ″senior citizens unit.″

The 45-year-old local government worker got the idea for the ″boombox parade″ after the town, located in eastern Connecticut, canceled its Memorial Day parade this year when it couldn’t find a marching band.

Mrs. Clark said she approached Wayne Norman, the morning disc jockey for WILI-AM, and asked him if the radio station would be willing to broadcast march music between 11 a.m. and 11:50 a.m. on July 4 for a parade.

Although hesitant at first, Norman agreed. Mrs. Clark went to Town Hall, got a parade permit and paid $175 of her own money to hire the two police officers required for a public march.

Mrs. Clark first envisioned the parade as loosely organized and a kind of joke. But now she, some friends and WILI are giving the parade some structure and taking it more seriously. They met Friday to form their plans.

The first 100 people to show up carrying radios and dressed in blue jeans and white shirts will be given red, white and blue vests. They will be asked to be part of the ″Official Marching Radio Band″ that will lead off the parade.

Civic groups in towns, including local veterans associations and ethnic clubs, are being invited. WILI will provide a float: a truck decorated as a big, portable radio.

The organizers also are encouraging people to bring pets and ride bicycles, tractors and other farm or construction equipment. They are looking for a bus in which to carry senior citizens.

Thirteen-year-old Jason Chalifoux, who was busy setting caps on Main Street on Friday, said he thought the parade would be fun.

″All the kids would enjoy it, especially with those big radios. It will give them something to do,″ he said.

An adult resident, Carlene Bottaro, wasn’t so sure.

″You’ll get a lot of kids fooling around. There will be a lot of confusion,″ she said.

Tony Clark, Mrs. Clark’s husband, remembers the disappointment residents felt a few years ago when another summer parade was botched. Spectators arrived, but only one fire truck showed up, he said.

″It was a disaster,″ he said. ″We thought this year that everybody could march and there would be no spectators.″

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