A River Edge Fourth, 2020
Journeys into River Edge
Our unique Spring has turned into Summer. It continues to be an unprecedented time in our community and for many of us personally. We continue to be tested in ways large and small.
On a community level, we are still trying to adept to our “new normal”. In some areas adjustments have been made in an effort to make it as normal as possible under these circumstances (i.e. Swim Club, Library, Town Rec. Camp).
At the same time, it’s now official – COVID-19 has claimed River Edge’s 2020 Fourth of July celebration.
There will be no parade. No speeches from the platform on Continental. No events in the park (including the poplar beer garden, children’s’ rides and flea market), and no Friends of the Library book sale.
It is good to see that we were able to fly the American flags from the telephone poles on Bogert and Continental as usual (the July Fourth parade route). But beyond that, unless there is some type of virtual presentation (as was the case on Memorial Day), folks around here will be left to celebrate America’s birthday in a more private manner.
At our place there will be dogs and burgers (beef and veggie) to go with the watermelon, beer and traditional homemade chili. The flag will hang. But instead of walking up to Bogert for the parade and to Memorial afterwards, I will instead occupy myself thinking of July Fourths past to keep me in a River Edge mood.
I will think of the excitement leading to the parade – whether reserving a curbside spot with lawn chairs or during the pre-parade trek to assemble at Cherry Hill.
I will think of those gathering to watch the parade along with me – whether present day River Edge citizens or folks returning – many of whom I rarely see or great during the year. But July Fourth gives me the chance to catch up and celebrate with – even those who I never speak with but am happy to share the moment with.
I will think of the various brunch spreads and watching parties that dot the parade route and the buzz as folks float from one gathering to another. I was never an invitee to any of the parties but it was fun to see, from an appropriate distance, the lengths folks went to in order to be gracious hosts. I enjoyed them enjoying themselves.
I will think of how the Shriners years ago were a highlight of the parade, riding in their very small motorized vehicles. While quite adept in how they motored around in formations, I most remember their large frames (in some cases VERY large frames) looking very uncomfortable trying to squeeze into those very small and cute vehicles they navigated.
I will think of years ago when the Garfield Cadets and Bergenfield High School Marching Band were long time fixtures in our parade. Both were considered the best in the area and both were well-known for their halftime performances at New York Giant football games, then played at Yankee Stadium.
I will think of the full contingency of veterans who used to march. Most were from World War II, a few from World War I and in the early years, even one or more from the Spanish-American War. Many of them were attired in full uniform. It is a memory that endures and serves as quite a contrast from parades in recent years. While I enjoy the period cars and uniformed persons re-enacting the period (with big band music playing), I miss the actual marching veterans whose numbers have dwindled through attrition.
I will think of the candies being distributed (thrown) to us. They were small but they were always a welcome treat – even to us grown-ups.
I will think of the speaker’s platform that used stand at Roosevelt before it was moved to Memorial. I cannot say that I remember much about the speeches – what little I can recall does not generate positive vibes. We just wanted all the talk to be done so we could get on to the hot dog.
I will also think of the music – Dixieland music – that greeted us at Memorial after the speeches. One of the musicians in the group played for the Tonight Show band in New York. The caliber of the music was high. So was the level of enjoyment that it produced.
Then, I will also remember the July Fourth of 1976 – our bicentennial year as it was celebrated at the River Edge Swim Club. There was a water ballet presentation, diving display and fun races. The pool was decorated with American flags above the lap lanes. The barbecues were in use. And, as was the norm, a spirited volleyball game occurred in the lower area.
Hopefully, next year will be a bit more normal. We hope it can produce a new and fresh set of memoires for this generation of River Edge’s residents. After all, July Fourth is not just about celebrating America. It is also about celebrating each other – including those now gone who made it possible for us to be here, as well as those who will call River Edge home in the future for whom we commit to making and being a community, so that they can build off of us - as we built off of those before us.
In Connecticut there is a town that is now famous for how it adapted when one year (1986), no marching band could be found for its Memorial Day Parade. Five weeks later, the “Boom Box Parade” concept was born, as the local radio station - WILI-AM - played the marching band music on the air, while thousands marched and watched, loudly playing their radios (boom boxes). It has been staged ever since – though due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and social distancing guidelines, the 35th annual July 4th “Boom Box Parade” will not be held in 2020. However that local station- will provide a “Virtual” Boom Box Parade, starting at 11 a.m. on July 4th, featuring photos and videos of prior parades, the marching band music sound track, and some other surprises. Part of me is wondering whether there might be a way to adapt - an equivalent local “Plan B” observance – perhaps a drive by of police cars and fire trucks for the kids at a proper social distancing (Like Santa’s pre-Christmas ride on a fire truck). Just a thought.
Lacking that, it will be a year of tapping into the reservoir of good memories stored over time as we try to get through these challenging times.
I may not see you this year but I will be thinking of you, with hopes of the return of good and health and good times in the future.