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“Probably less than 20%” chance the 4th of July parade will happen

By Jason Alexander
Updated April 22, 2020

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Hingham Girls Softball riding a float during the 4th of July parade

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“Everybody loves a parade!” so the saying goes, and Hingham’s 4th of July parade is no exception.  The Town’s most anticipated annual event is one of the largest and longest-running in the state dating back to at least 1827 when the Hingham Gazette, which was in its first year of publication, reported on it.  People from all over line the streets to take in the bands, performers and floats, so it will come as a tremendous disappointment to many to know that the parade will likely not take place this year.

TO CANCEL OR NOT TO CANCEL

On Monday night, the Fourth of July Parade Committee – which is charged with the planning, organizing and fundraising of the parade as well as the band concert at the Harbor – met to discuss the status of the event.  Chair Jim Murphy opened the meeting with an update. He mentioned that he had participated in a recent discussion on the 4th of July with a group of people representing various sectors of Town, including police, fire, selectmen and Recreation Commission.  In his opinion the chance of the parade happening this year is “probably less than 20%.” However, they will likely “wait to see what Governor Baker chooses to do.”

Several alternatives to a traditional parade were explored.  One Committee member suggested creating a “rolling parade” where police cars and fire trucks would drive through neighborhoods in town.  However, concerns were raised that this might encourage people to congregate in groups to watch. Another idea was to ask people to decorate their homes – including putting up flags and red, white and blue lights – so that “your house is your float.”  According to Gabby Roegner, these would be “expressions…of people caring and coming together even if they can’t physically do that.”  And a third was to create an entirely virtual experience through a video compilation of footage from past parades and interviews with people who are involved this year – one of which would be the parade’s Grand Marshal.

PARADE BUTTONS

This year’s theme is “Unity in Community!”  The thought behind it was to encourage people “to work together and help move our communities in a positive direction.”  The annual button design contest took place, and the Parade Committee announced Monday that they selected Ginger Niehoff from Plymouth River School as this year’s Button Design Winner.  Ginger’s colorful design shows individuals from all walks of life holding hands around a banner that says “Together We Can Make a Difference.”  The background at the top of the button is the American flag and on it lies a skyline that includes several familiar structures, including the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Unfortunately the 5500 buttons that were ordered are currently sitting in storage with limited means of distribution.  Most of the usual businesses that sell them are not open right now, and events where the buttons have been sold in previous years, like SNAP’s Pizzapalooza and Taste of Hingham, have been cancelled.  So the Committee is currently looking at ways to distribute the buttons without creating a public health risk.

FINANCIAL PICTURE

The good news is that the Committee already has the funding it needs for 2021.  “We typically try to raise $5,000 to $10,000 more than we spend,” said Chair Jim Murphy.  “Thus, over the course of active, continuous fundraising for the past 14 years, we have established a fund that will pay for ‘a year’s parade plus.'”   Total expenditures amount to around $55,000 per year, the majority of which goes toward paid performers signage.  The remaining $15,000 to $20,000 goes toward flyers, food, prizes for The Selectmen’s Cup and other parade merchandise.

Many people don’t realize that taxpayer money does not go toward the parade.  It is funded entirely through private donations from businesses, organizations and individuals.  Corporate sponsorships, registration fees, funds raised by the Selectmen’s Cup and other fundraising activities, like sales of the 4th of July button, and all help pay for the event.  Given this strong financial position, the Committee can put off making the decision of whether or not to hold the event for a few more weeks.

The 50 Flags Campaign in particular has generated tremendous attention in years past, and the 12,000 flags on display throughout Hingham have raised the spirits of everyone who have seen them.  “We’re hoping to figure out a safe way to do this again this year,” said Jim.  “Everyone will need an even bigger boost from the conditions created by the current pandemic!”

OTHER FOURTH OF JULY ACTIVITIES

  • Selectmen’s Cup – “No Selectmen’s Cup,” said Christine Smith, Chair of the Country Club Management Committee.  She pointed to the fact that no one knows when the Country Club will reopen.

  • 4th of July Road Race – The Recreation Commission has closed registration for the 4.47-mile race that follows a course down historic Main Street, because they are not certain it will take place.

  • Fireworks – The Hingham Lions Club runs the annual fireworks display which costs $50K.  They haven’t been able to do any fundraising, but they have until May 15th to make their final decision.

  • 50 Flags – The 50 Flag Campaign is on hold but is easy to roll out quickly.

FOURTH OF JULY PARADE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

  • Jim Murphy

  • Jason Caine

  • Monica Conyngham

  • Dewitt DeLawter

  • George Ford

  • Tom Hoffman

  • Cassie McDermott

  • Carrie Murphy

  • Louis O’Dea

  • Glenn Olsson

  • Gabby Roegner

  • Bill Fortune

  • Maura Richards

  • Jeff Lalley

  • Mary Ellen Lahiff

  • Mark Everett

  • Jack Dean

  • John Monz

  • Lynn  Rayburn

  • Dan Lahiff

  • Lynn Barclay

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Just a quick banner ad example

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Hingham Girls Softball riding a float during the 4th of July parade