On Monday, Brett Warner joined a long list of public servants and local legends proudly serving grand marshal in Bethany Beach’s annual Fourth of July Parade.
The Town’s Fourth of July Parade Committee appointed Warner with the honor in recognition of his decades of hard work and leadership with the Town’s Public Works Department.
Having moved to the area with his family in 1969, when he was just 6, Warner has a long history with the local community. According to Warner, he started working for the Town in 1977, as a 14-year-old part-time summer employee.
Back then, the town was much different and the “development boom” had yet to take off.
“That’s the big thing that’s changed around here,” Warner said. “Back then, you look at big communities like Bethany West and they only had a dozen houses. Now look at them.”
In 1982, as a young adult, Warner returned to the Public Works Department as a full-time employee. He was appointed director of Public Works in December of 1999 — a position he has held ever since. He said that, throughout his life, the only other job he ever had was working at Maureen’s Ice Cream & Desserts on Garfield Parkway.
For Warner and his crew, the Fourth of July is the pinnacle of their summer season, bringing in large crowds and requiring hours and hours of manpower. And, despite his new position of honor for the parade this year, for the most part Warner carried on just as he has for every patriotic celebration in the last 33 years.
“Every Fourth of July, my crew and I get here at 4 a.m. and start putting out the reviewing stand, getting the beaches blocked for the fireworks show and make sure all of the barricades are out for the parade,” Warner said.
On top of that, the Public Works crew still keeps up with day-to-day maintenance, includng emptying trash cans and picking up litter from the beach, sidewalks and boardwalk, because, as Warner said, “It may be the Fourth of July, but there is still all of the other stuff to do.”
During the day, Warner said, he and his crew only get to stand down when the rest of the town is otherwise occupied with the day’s festivities.
“The only time we get to relax is during the parade — so we usually get an hour or two,” he said.
Then, as soon as the parade wraps up, they’re back at it, picking up trash and breaking down what they set up earlier in the day, breaking briefly around 4 p.m. to grab a bite to eat before continuing to prep for the evening crowds.
“It’s nonstop,” Warner said. “Generally, a Fourth of July is 4 a.m. to 1 a.m., straight through.”
Thanks to a line of evening storms on Monday, there was still a bit of Independence Day madness to be had on July 5 this year, as Warner and the rest of his department continued to prepare for the fireworks display, which had been postponed from the night before.
Despite the long hours, the Public Works crew toils hard from sunup to well past sundown, making sure that everything that needs to be done gets done. Warner said he’s been known to turn into a jack-of-all-trades on the Fourth, doing everything from setting up fireworks and laying tubes down on the beach to riding shotgun through town in a fancy black Corvette convertible.
“We do whatever needs to be done to make sure everything goes off without a hitch,” he said.
However, this year, as grand marshal of the parade, Warner’s routine differed a bit from previous years — though, as he’s quick to admit, not by much.
“The only difference was that I worked until 11:30 a.m., then traded my orange work shirt for my nice Fourth of July shirt and hat that my girls picked out for me, and got in my car for the parade,” Warner said.
After that, it was business as usual.
Of being asked to serve as the parade’s grand marshal, Warner said, “It was an honor.”
“It was great,” he said. “There were a lot of people who knew me and acknowledged me along the way and other people who recognized me because I’m always out and about in town.”
While he gladly accepted the honor of being grand marshal and the recognition of the many years of hard work that accompanied it, Warner humbly insisted that his public works crew, who serve alongside him morning, noon and night, deserve the credit as well.