The Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade has entertained residents and visitors from far and wide for more than two decades. But the 22nd edition of the event, set for Tuesday, July 4 at noon, promises to be more entertaining than ever before.
The theme for the 2006 parade is “Let Us Entertain You,” focusing not only on the entertainment provided by the parade itself but also the slate of acts scheduled to entertain visitors to the town’s boardwalk and renovated bandstand this summer.
While the bandstand renovations were delayed, canceling nearly a month’s worth of performances, the news was good leading up to the rescheduled opening weekend, June 30 through the July 4 holiday. Not only was final completion of the project expected to be just three weeks away, but the town had even added two new performances to the week’s schedule.
All of those performances have been arranged by the town’s entertainment coordinator, Gloria Farrar, who will serve as grand marshal for the parade this year.
“Gloria Farrar is the grand marshal because she’s entertainment director and the theme of parade is ‘Let Us Entertain You,” explained parade committee Chairman Phil Rossi. “And on the T-shirt is the bandstand,” he added, noting the parade theme celebrates the project, as well as the entertainment it will soon support.
Farrar already had exciting plans for a new Independence Day-weekend surprise to honor her time as grand marshal for the parade.
“On Thursday morning, with the fire department, we’re going to be putting up a Dr. Seuss-style red, white and blue hat on the totem pole,” she confided in the Coastal Point on Tuesday.
“There will be so many more people here. And a lot of people are not here to see it when we do it at Christmas,” she explained, referencing the traditional dressing of the landmark Chief Little Owl statue with a Santa hat for the winter holiday. The big wooden sculpture will now have an additional bonnet in his seasonal wardrobe.
Farrar said the new chapeau was being constructed by Dianne DeForest, whom she called Betsy Ross-like in her seamstress duties for the town’s traditional emblem.
In this modern age, where nearly everything one could dream of is available online, DeForest said she’d naturally turned to the Internet to get some help for her unique — and oversized — design challenge.
“I went online to see if there was a pattern but there wasn’t,” she said Tuesday. So, it was on to Plan B.
“It’s required a great deal of creativity,” DeForest said, “because I’m working from the size of the Santa hat and it’s a different kind of hat. Part of it was preplanning in my head and part of it has been making it up as it’s going along.”
DeForest was sewing madly on the project Tuesday, with only two days left to complete the giant hat. The brim was done, she said, but she was still finishing the red, white and blue striped top.
“As my children were growing up, I made a lot of their Halloween costumes, and I guess that stood me in good stead,” DeForest explained, confident of completing her important task. Those visiting the town for the Independence Day holiday will be able to appreciate it as they drive or walk past the town’s best-known symbol of welcome.
In addition to the new festive accent and Farrar’s special appearance in the parade, those in downtown Bethany Beach on Tuesday will have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of marching units, dancers, musical performers, floats, walkers, decorated bicycles and general parade pandemonium.
Rossi said marching units would include the Fancy Brigade mummers, Tidewater Brass Band, the Bethany Beach Pipers pipe band and Nanticoke Indians – a new addition in this year’s parade. The parade will lead off with the Delaware National Guard.
Saxophonist Al Santoro and the Hilighters will perform from atop a truck in the parade, as will the Back Bay Strummers, Southern Delaware School of the Arts steel-drum band Steel the Show, Milford Community Band, Philadelphia Brass Band and Nautical Sounds barbershop group.
And mini-Corvettes will zoom around the streets of the town once again.
“There are also floats and people just calling up and telling us different things they’re going to put in the parade,” Rossi added, referencing the family groups that traditionally go all-out to put on their own kind of show for parade-goers with spectacular floats geared to take home some of the parade awards.
Those awards will be given based on three criteria: originality, parade theme and color. And change to the parade routine this year will involve the awards ceremony.
“It usually takes place around 3 p.m., when it’s 100 degrees, and we don’t have much turnout,” Farrar said. So, 2006 will mark a change for the awards ceremony, which has been moved to 7:15 p.m., at the bandstand.
“There will be huge audience” for those receiving their awards this year, Farrar promised, with the change. With fireworks to begin at dusk, the area is bound to be packed with people to applaud the efforts of those participating in that day’s parade.
Also up for awards are the traditional children’s bicycle participants. Kids who want to ride their bikes in the parade are again being provided with decorating kids to do their rides up right for the Fourth.
Unlike in previous years, there is no pre-registration for the Bethany Beach parade in 2006. Floats will be registered on Central Avenue, near Route 1, starting at 9 a.m. Also at 9, bicycle participants will be registered and can receive their kits on the Christian Church grounds next to town hall.
Once they’ve pedaled down the roads on their decorated conveyances and completed the 90-minute parade route, the kids and parents alike will be able to adjourn to the Christian Church grounds for the 18th annual horseshoe contest, set to start around 2 p.m.
For those wanting to take aim at a more edible goal, the first-ever pie-eating contest will also start around 2 p.m. It’s sponsored by one of Bethany’s newest businesses — Dangerously Delicious Pies — which will supply the pies for the ambitious eaters to so quickly enjoy.
Once the horseshoes have been tossed and pies consumed, parade-goers will be able to enjoy one of the most festive afternoons in the town each year, leading up to the 7:15 awards ceremony and even more entertainment. The Philadelphia Brass Band will adjourn from their parade conveyance to the bandstand for a 7:30 concert.
And all of that will lead up to the traditional cap of Independence Day in the beach town: fireworks above the ocean at dusk.
In 2005, a last-minute arrangement saved the show by bringing in a barge just in time for the event. Late-spring weather had eroded the beach enough that firing the show from the beach was simply not safe. Without the barge, the show would not have gone on.
This year, recognizing early on that an eroded beach would not permit safe firing of the pyrotechnics display from the shore, town officials scheduled a barge ahead of time to come in and house the firing area. So the fireworks will be shot from the ocean, off Garfield Parkway, with the best view from the bandstand — just in time to celebrate the near-completion of the project.
That means the only major concern left for the day is the weather. “I don’t want it to rain on my parade,” Rossi said with a laugh on Tuesday.
With torrential rains causing devastating flooding in the area over the previous weekend and rain expected to continue through the week, that was an even deeper concern than usual for the town. But extended weather forecasts for the week indicated only a 30 percent chance of precipitation on July 4.
That means the best chance of fireworks for the Fourth of July 2006 is likely to be of the man-made variety, in the sky over Bethany Beach after dusk. They will cap off an exciting — and entertaining — 22nd edition of the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade.