A Timeless Tradition
166th Franklin County Fair kicks off Thursday night
GREENFIELD — When Montague resident Michael Nelson and a friend took over as the organizers of the Franklin County Fair’s annual kick-off parade seven years ago, they had no idea what they were getting into.
“We took over and said, ‘Holy cow ... this is going to take a lot more than two people!’” said Nelson.
Now, that crew has grown to include more than 20 local volunteers and Nelson said this year’s parade — which is the 36th annual and will step off on Thursday at 5 p.m. — is slated to be one of the best yet.
Starting at Greenfield Middle School, the parade will proceed down Federal Street and take a right onto Main Street, then follow River and Laurel streets up to the fairgrounds on Wisdom Way.
“It’s the same route that it has taken for the past 36 years,” Nelson said.
The procession will end at the Grandstand, where judges will evaluate each entry.
Nelson said this year’s parade will include 92 different entries, including a plethora of floats, three marching bands, from Franklin County Technical School, Greenfield High School and Pioneer Valley Regional School, a variety of civic organizations including the Lions Club and the Red Cross and four Shriners Clubs with “all their cars and toys.”
As with any good parade, plenty of performing arts groups will march alongside the floats, flipping, stomping and dancing their way to the fairgrounds. Dance groups will include the YMCA, Pizazz Dance Studio, the Celtic Heels dancers, and the North County Line Dancers.
And, there will be no shortage of cars, both new and antique. One of them, which will follow M&M Removal Service’s fall-themed float, may not be back next year: it will participate in the fair’s demolition derby on Sunday night.
Serving as this year’s grand marshal will be Greenfield Town Councilor Penny Ricketts.
“She’s very enthusiastic about the town of Greenfield, and her community spirit led us to pick her as this year’s grand marshal,” said Nelson.
Ricketts said she had no idea that she was being considered for the honor until she got the call.
“They said, ‘What are you going to be doing for the parade?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, I’m on so many committees, I’m not sure which I’ll ride with yet,” said Ricketts. “Well, they said ‘We got one for you. You’re going to be the marshal.’”
Ricketts said she’ll be riding in the back of a pickup driven by Dillon Chevrolet of Greenfield.
“Everyone does the convertible,” said Ricketts. “I’m going to do a truck.”
As for the judges, Nelson said they are all local residents and each entry will be placed into one of six categories: antique cars, performing arts, musical bands, agricultural entry, human services, and an open category for miscellaneous entries. The judges will rate each entry on how it uses the fair’s theme, “A Timeless Tradition,” the creativity that went into its design, and the enthusiasm of its members.
For those who will watch the column pass from the sidelines, Nelson said one of the best places to do so is also one of the most under-utilized: the grandstands.
“It’s right at the fair and it’s a great place to oversee the whole parade. All the floats pass by it, and you can sit and eat a fried dough while you listen to the announcers,” said Nelson. “And, should it rain, it’s under cover so you’ll stay nice and dry.”