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4th of July parade in Chesterfield brings together Hilltowns, visitors from near and far

Members of the American Legion Post 304 color guard were among the first groups to march through the center of Chesterfield Thursday as the town's annual 4th of July parade got underway.
James Paleologopoulos
/
WAMC
Members of the American Legion Post 304 color guard were among the first groups to march through the center of Chesterfield Thursday as the town's annual 4th of July parade got underway.

Thousands flocked to the western Massachusetts Hilltown of Chesterfield for its annual 4th of July parade Thursday. Celebrating the nation's independence, the event featured locals and neighboring communities – all while visitors, including a number of international students, took in the spectacle.

Rounding the intersection of South Street and Main Road, dozens of local clubs, fire departments and veterans marched through the Hampshire County town of just over a thousand residents.

“This event is a bit of a miracle - there [are] so many people from Chesterfield that work to make this happen.” said Leslie Kellogg, who chairs the Chesterfield 4th of July parade committee. “There’s - a couple thousand people watching this parade - it’s very fun to just have it explode in the center of town, with color and love of our country, and we just like to share it with everybody.”

Kellogg says the event dates back decades and features an otherwise quiet community filling up with plenty of locals from town and surrounding communities, including Cummington, Goshen, Worthington and more.

Organizers estimate at least a "couple thousand" people were in Chesterfield for the 77th annual 4th of July parade on Thursday, watching groups march and roll through South Street and Main Road.
James Paleologopoulos
/
WAMC
Organizers estimate at least a "couple thousand" people were in Chesterfield for the 77th annual 4th of July parade on Thursday, watching groups march and roll through South Street and Main Road.

Among the spectators Thursday were also dozens of international students and professors taking in the Independence Day celebration.

Attendees from countries like Pakistan, Vietnam and Argentina, all part of Study of the U.S. Institutes programs, could be seen waving small American flags as floats passed by, and taking group photos on the parade route.

Retired director of the University of Massachusetts Civic Initiative Mike Hannahan says the programs include at least 20 students from Pakistan, 20 students from parts of the Middle East and North Africa, and over a dozen professors from various parts of the world.

“The group of professors studies American politics, so they hope to improve their teaching - the group of Pakistani students study public policy, the group of Arab students study entrepreneurship,” he said, explaining what participants get out of the programs supported by UMass. “But, a lot of its just face-to-face contact.”

A Worthington Fire Department truck was among the various emergency vehicles parading down the center of Chesterfield.
James Paleologopoulos
/
WAMC
A Worthington Fire Department truck was among the various emergency vehicles parading down the center of Chesterfield.

Two of the participants from Pakistan told WAMC the volunteerism on display fascinated them, as dozens of local farmers, fire department staff and classic cars rolled through.

“It has been an impactful experience - back in Pakistan, we have cadets doing the parade, but [here] there were all civilians involved,” said Habib Ullah, who noted a 1967 Corvette in particular caught his eye during the event. “And many, many cool cars we got to see and the fire brigades and other things - it was really amazing.”

His colleague, Tirlok Kumar Varyani agreed.

“I feel the diversity here - people from different cultures, from different backgrounds, enjoying the vibe - all with the one unity under the independence of the United States - it was a lot of diversity experience,” he said.

Classic and vintage cars of all makes and models made up a large portion of the parade.
James Paleologopoulos
/
WAMC
Classic and vintage cars of all makes and models made up a large portion of the parade.

Also on display – plenty of the region’s history. The town hall hosted historical displays and old photos of Chesterfield – first settled between Northampton and Pittsfield around 1760.

Among the stands was a display for the Williams-Boltwood Project, an effort to restore a massive building in what was once Chesterfield and now the town of Goshen - dating back to even before George Washington was president.

Kammille Oborne and her team says the 19-room structure acted as a post office, a boarding house and even a tavern at one point. Looking to turn it into a community hub once more, Oborne says the building has a lot to offer in already unique part of the Northeast.

“It's awesome - Hilltowns are - they're very unique,” Oborne told WAMC. “They are quirky and passionate - and I don't think there's anywhere else in the state that I would want to be. It's amazing.”

The inside of Chesterfield's town hall following the end of the 4th of July parade, featuring historic photos, local artists and face painting.
James Paleologopoulos
/
WAMC
The inside of Chesterfield's town hall following the end of the 4th of July parade, featuring historic photos, local artists and face painting.

Also held Thursday – a special pancake breakfast raising funds for the local fire department and a chicken barbecue hosted by the First Congregational Church of Chesterfield.

The event also featured a great deal of music, complete with the Heritage Pops Orchestra playing big band tunes throughout the day.

Also among the crowd and marching in the parade – State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa of the 1st Hampshire District.

Representing a number of Hilltowns in the legislature, including Chesterfield, the lawmaker says ultimately, the Independence Day observance feels a lot like a homecoming as well.

“It is definitely Hilltown pride," the representative said. "And what's fabulous about this event is when you start talking to people, you will find people who have lived in Burgy (Williamsburg), in Chesterfield, in Goshen whose best friends grew up in the next town over - it's really like a town homecoming."

Among the groups marching Thursday was the Sugarhill Art Studio, including a handmade float displaying the climax of Herman Melville's classic "
James Paleologopoulos
/
WAMC
Among the groups marching Thursday was the Sugarhill Art Studio, including a handmade float depicting the climax of Herman Melville's classic "Moby Dick."
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee" - Captain Ahab
James Paleologopoulos
/
WAMC
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee" - Captain Ahab