First responder parade, Franklin County Fair fill region with emotion

  • Members of the South Deerfield Fire Department make their way down Main Street in Greenfield during the emergency services parade en route to the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Firefighters and junior firefighters with the Colrain and Heath departments parade into the fairgrounds during the emergency services parade at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Members of the Conway Fire Department make their way into the fairgrounds during the emergency services parade at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • The emergency services parade makes its way to the grandstand at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Crowd members cheer as the emergency services parade makes its way to the grandstand at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Zach DiPaolo, 28, of Virginia, performs a trick during a motocross show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on Friday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Zach DiPaolo, 28, of Virginia, performs a trick during a motocross show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on Friday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Zach DiPaolo, 28, of Virginia, performs a trick during a motocross show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on Friday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Zach DiPaolo, 28, of Virginia, performs a trick during a motocross show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on Friday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Frankie Lettieri, 29, of New Jersey, moves into a trick during a motocross show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on Friday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Derek Burlew, 37, of New Jersey, launches from the ramp during a motocross show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on Friday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Derek Burlew, 37, of New Jersey, performs a trick during a motocross show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on Friday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Derek Burlew, 37, of New Jersey, performs a trick during a motocross show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on Friday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Derek Burlew, 37, of New Jersey, performs a trick during a motocross show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on Friday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Fairgoers enjoy the rides at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Fairgoers enjoy the rides at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Fairgoers watch the Swiftly Swine Productions pig race at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Fairgoers enjoy the rides at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Flying High Dogs perform for the crowd at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Marine Corps League Oak Ridge Detachment members Clint Read, right, and Brian Brooks, cook chicken meals for fairgoers along with Ryan Harrison and Robert Vallandingham, not pictured, at the 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair on Sunday in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/12/2021 4:53:05 PM

GREENFIELD — Sunday’s happenings in Greenfield contrasted light-hearted fun with heartfelt tribute between the 172nd Franklin County Fair and the annual first responders’ parade.

The fair opened for the day at 8 a.m. to close out the weekend with a vast array of performances, exhibitions, vendors, and rides. Downtown, Franklin County first responders in emergency vehicles took to Greenfield’s Main Street at 11 a.m. in acknowledgement of those who have served and in remembrance of those who died in the line of duty.

Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan prefaced the parade with a brief speech to a crowd that included dozens of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. The speech, accompanied by ceremonial bagpipes, was focused around the memory of first responders, workers and other victims who were killed during (and from the after-effects of) the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“We remember the loss of life on Sept. 11, 2001,” Strahan said before repeating himself for resonance. “We remember.”

“I think (the parade is) good for the younger people who weren’t around at the time and don’t remember,” Erving Fire Chief Philip Wonkka said.

Wonkka added that raising awareness of what occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 can lead to a better perception of reality and the possibility of tragedies striking anywhere.

“It’s good to get out there first and foremost that these things can happen,” Wonkka said.

“Everyone has a story and a personal connection,” Paradegoer Cheyanne Gracia, whose father is a retired firefighter and brother is a Department of Conservation and Recreation worker, said. “Everyone knows where they were during 9/11.”

Frederick Clark, Greenfield Public Safety Commissioner and 64-year firefighter, said the parade is particularly cherished by Greenfield as they represent the county.

“I’m happy that Greenfield can serve as the host for this,” Clark said. “I think the men here are very proud to serve as the host for this.”

Gracia said the parade is a good way to help residents better understand first responders.

“I think it shows where their resources are going,” Gracia said. “It gives people a chance to connect.”

Gracia’s husband, Gandhi, said connecting with first responders is important because they’re “local heroes” who care universally.

“You call and they just show up,” he said. “They don’t ask you where you’re from.”

Wonkka said the overall significance of the parade lies with its being a bonding opportunity for the county’s first responders, as well as the entire community by nature of it being a public gathering.

“It’s also helped the county first responders gel a little bit,” Wonkka said. “I think it’s good for the community as a whole, especially after a year of COVID.”

A mile away, at Franklin County Fairgrounds, Franklin County residents connected over less heavy-hearted activities during the final day of the Franklin County Fair. For Mike Nelson, lead fair organizer and president of the Franklin County Agricultural Society that manages the fairgrounds, emotions still ran high, but for vastly different reasons.

“I quite literally cried,” Nelson said, recalling a moment he had this weekend relishing the fair’s post-pandemic hiatus return.

Nelson added that this year’s fair turnout was the best it had been in “decades.”

“We run the fair because of the joy and love for it,” Nelson said on behalf of the fair workers, who are volunteers. “To bring it back for everybody has been so inexplicably exciting.”

Fairgoers evidenced excitement on their end over the weekend by forming large crowds at some of the fair’s most beloved events, such as the Swiftly Swine Productions piglet race and the demolition derby.

“It’s always a great time,” Turners Falls resident Chad Cadran said. “I’ve been coming here since I was a kid.”

Entertainment Director Steven DeJoy said the fair’s first-time events, such as Friday’s freestyle motocross and Saturday’s team triathlon, “worked very well.” He said the motocross had an “exceptional crowd” and the triathlon, an unconventional joining of water balloon tossing, three-legged racing, and potato sack racing, “went over very, very well” with “lots of laughs and spills.”

“Once people see something, word of mouth gets out,” DeJoy said, optimistic about these events cementing themselves into fair tradition. “The second year is always bigger than the first.”

With the fair innovating new festivities and being met with such positive response, organizers are encouraged going forward after 173 years of operation.

“It has been incredibly exciting to be back at the fair,” Nelson said.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.




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