MONTPELIER — Vermonters marked Independence Day in the Capital City with a clamorous celebration on Wednesday, living up to its reputation.
According to a recent poll by internet-based WalletHub, Vermont was behind only New Hampshire and Wyoming in terms of which states are most invested in patriotic pride, based on a range of 13 criteria.
Montpelier tried to improve the average on Wednesday.
Although Independence Day celebrations are largely non-partisan, there was plenty of politicking about the current Trump administration and its policies in Wednesday’s parade.
Several floats making political protests included: Extinction Rebellion, which is fighting climate change; Sustainable Montpelier Coalition, with a cardboard float that is “recyclable” and will be used again next year; Vermonters for Palestinian and Migrant Justice; All Things LGBT; and Indivisible groups from Calais, Mad River Valley, Onion River (Plainfield/Marshfield), and the Northeast Kingdom, protesting the handling of the Mueller Report.
Traditionally held on July 3, the city fielded a full day of family events, a pulsing parade, live music, dozens of food vendors and a spectacular fireworks display, organized by Montpelier Alive and the city.
“We’re really excited as this is our 20th anniversary doing July 3 in Montpelier and we love putting on a fun, free community event and seeing thousands of people down here,” said Montpelier Alive Executive Director Dan Groberg said. “It’s really why we do what we do, so it’s very rewarding to see it. The city is incredible in supporting us.”
Groberg added a special thank you to Capital Community Church for bringing in 40 volunteers to stage the Family Olympics on the State House lawn, which were a big hit with families and featured bouncy houses and competitive games for children of all ages.
Gov. Phil Scott said it was a normal day at the office for him, but, later, he celebrated by marching in the parade with sailors from the USS Montpelier, and sister sub, the PCU (Pre-Commissioned Unit) Vermont, which is expected to begin service next spring.
“This is a fitting way to do it with our namesakes here, in both regards,” Scott said, adding that he spent the previous day with the sailors at a barbecue that was also attended by Sen. Patrick Leahy, and organized by Debra Martin, the chairwoman of both the USS Montpelier Planning and the USS Vermont Commissioning Committee. The sailors were also treated to trips to Morse Farm Sugar Works in Montpelier and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, and lunch at the American Legion Post 3 in Montpelier on Wednesday. Senior officials from both submarines said they were grateful for the hospitality the had received.
“This is an incredible experience, a tradition started many years ago, bringing the Montpelier crew to her namesake city for a visit and embracing us and letting us be a part of this awesome event,” said USS Montpelier Cmdr. Ron Hodges.
The commander of the PCU Vermont, Henry Roenke, was unable to attend but Chief of the Boat Tim Brownson was present, and added: “The captain is back at the submarine, preparing it to get under way for operations, with sea trials in September with delivery to the Navy in October, and a projected commissioning date of March 14, 2020.”
Several politicians marching in the parade include Rep. Peter Welch, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Sen. Anne Cummings, city Reps. Mary Hooper and Warren Kitzmiller, Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson, and the Montpelier City Council.
Popular and notable parade entrants included the Montpelier Trash Tramps, Montpelier Shriners, the Barre-Tones acapella chorus (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year), the winning Montpelier Mountaineers baseball team, Norwich University (celebrating its 200th anniversary this year), SHIDAA African Cultural Project, and the Step N Time Line Dancers.
The Onion River Outdoors’ Montpelier Mile road race preceded the parade, and a headline concert by popular cover band RaiZed on Radio on the State House Lawn followed the parade before a spectacular fireworks’ display at dusk, accompanied by music from the 40th Army Band from Colchester, at 9:30 p.m.
Events around the city during the day include free admission to the Vermont History Museum on State Street with children offered the chance to create Independence Day hats and other regalia; a reading of the Frederick Douglass speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro,” at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library; a free family fun day at the Montpelier Recreation Department pool on Elm Street; photos for kids on a fire truck at the Montpelier Fire Department on Main Street; and patriotic music by Michael Loris on the bells of Trinity Methodist Church on Main Street.
More than 40 food vendors on State Street did a brisk trade throughout the day and evening. A street party on Langdon Street, featuring The Grift and Julio’s dance party in the Heney parking lot off State Street rounded out the day’s activities.