The Parade Has Marched a Long
and Winding Route
by Steve Bigham
Article courtesy of The Newtown Bee

An estimated 4,000 people lined the streets of Newtown to view the town’s first-ever Labor Day Parade back on September 3, 1962. John F. Kennedy was in the White House, Fidel Castro had taken power in Cuba, and Lee Glover was in charge here in Newtown…of the parade that is.

Mr. Glover still fondly remembers the town’s first Labor Day Parade. As Newtown Hook & Ladder Chief, Lee knew a thing or two about parades and was selected as parade marshal. In those days, parade marshals headed the planning of the event in addition to sitting in the car and waving to the crowd.

“I remember it was a fair day. We didn’t have any weather problems. What we did is we had five divisions. The fire chief for each company headed each division. It ran very smoothly because we were used to marching and parading,” said Mr. Glover.

Earlier in the year, the Rotary Club of Newtown came up with the idea to hold a parade on Labor Day, a holiday many in town considered to be sort of a drab and boring.

“They just thought there was a lack of something going on on Labor Day and this certaintly livened up the holiday,” Mr. Glover said. “I think it’s done that even more so than they could have ever realized. I never thought it would last this long.”

Like today, the first Labor Day parade kicked off at the Soldiers and Sailors monument at the top of Main Street and headed south past the flag pole. However, in that first year, the parade kept going straight to Amaral Motors (and on to Dickinson Park) instead of turning left onto Glover Avenue.

The Newtown Bee reported on the excitement surrounding that first parade, which was put on by Rotary and part of the “Progress Days” festivities that also included a dance and block party that weekend. A total of 41 units marched in that first parade. This year, more than 200 units will take part.

“The parade was highlighted by many floats and spirited bands and marching units, political party candidates, clowns, decorated bicycles, and mounted 4H riding units,” The Bee reported. Leading the parade that year was Mr. Glover, who actually headed the event for the first three years.

“I remember the political situation that first year,” Mr. Glover said. “When we first set the parade up, there was no division for politicians. Then a committee decided to have a group of politicians in there. There were pros and cons on it, but we finally let them in. I have to laugh now because today it’s almost a full division of politicians, but that’s part of the spirit of Labor Day.”

Newtown’s fire companies have always been the backbone of the parades, and George Lockwood of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Company has been there every step of the way. He marched that first year and every year since. Mr. Lockwood has been a member of the Sandy Hook company for more than 50 years.

“The parade just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I remember in the early days there were just a handful of people along the street as you passed by. There were more people marching that there were watching,” he said.

In that first year, Stanley Verry was grand chairman of “Progress Days,” Dr. Vincent Jablon of Newtown Rotary was parade chairman, and Charles Gehring of the Jaycees headed the publicity. Parade judges were Henry Schankenberg, Ernst Guckel, Alexander Nagy, and Dorothy Mable.

Parade VIP’s included First Selectman Charles W. Terrell, Jr, “Newtown’s Mr. Citizen” Bertram Stroock, who had donated the land for Dickinson Park the year before, and “Miss Newtown,” Antonia Woyerstrass.

In those days, Newtown was a much smaller town with country flare. “Everybody when you walked down Main Street knew each other and said ‘hello.’ That has changed,” Mr. Glover said.

The Labor Day Parades in Newtown have provided many fond memories for residents over the years. Who can forget parade marshal Lee Davidson roller skating the parade route dressed in a gorilla suit in 1979, or the year well-known Republican Mae Schmidle managed to get an elephant into the march. One recent parade was highlighted by a fly-over by a World War II B-17. Newtown’s parade has lived on for so long thanks to a long list of organizers who take great care in putting on a good show. Also, Newtown’s Labor Day Parade has grown to be the largest in the state, attracting governors, senators, and other dignitaries. Most towns that have parades schedule them for Memorial Day Weekend.

Year: Grand Marshal(s): Theme: Chairperson:
1962 Lee Glover Dr. Vincent Jablon
1963 Lee Glover Walk Together, Talk Together Dr. Vincent Jablon
1964 Robert Reiner Dr. Vincent Jablon
1965 Clifford Maddox Robert Danko
1966 Clifford Maddox Tim Treadwell
1968 Col. Gilbert Teal
1969 Col. Gilbert Teal
1970 Al Nichols Edward Sullivan
1971 Chief Glover Dedicated to the Firemen of Newtown
1972 Arthur Bennett Sr. Bob Rubenstein,
Chris Spiro
1973 Mr. & Mrs. Paul Sniith Salute to Town Service Organizations
1974 Mr. & Mrs. Richard Hibbard Bob McCulloch,
Judy Furlotte
1975 Herbert Cutler Mr. & Mrs.
George Mattegat
1976 Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Storrs Remember When Judy Furlotte
1977 Dr. Tom Draper Take Stock in Newtown Steve & Joann Whiting,
Mark & Lynn Korotash
1978 Bill & Irene Walker Reach for the Stars Herb & Kathy Rosenthal,
Larry & Gretchen Hyde
1979 Tom & Lilly All Roads Lead to Newtown
1980 Bill & Jean Honan Newtown, Getting into Shape for the 80’s Paul & Elena Zolov,
Pete & Jan Watson
1981 Tom & Lilly Newtown, It’s the Good Life Ernie & Jill Baidillo,
Brian & Maria Burke
1982 Stan & Evelyn Verry
1983 Gil & Ruth Collins Lyden, Tschorns & Hart
1984 Art & Mary Scherer Newtown… Naturally Rich & Dottie Dillon,
John & Elizabeth Wefer
1985 Harry & Ann Carey Newtown, A Town for all Seasons Marilyn Cieanthes,
Cathy Andrews
1986 Sam & Arlene Eisenbach Once Upon A Tradition Kathy Marusa
1987 Joseph Chase 25th Anniversary of Community Service Kathy Marusa
1988 Sarah Mannix Newtown,
The Place to Be
Cathy Andrews,
Pat Denlinge,Joanne Molden,Judy Furlotte
1989 Marvi Fast Newtown,
Fun for All Ages
Cathy Andrews,
Pat Denlinge,Joanne Molden,Judy Furlotte
1990 Merlin Fisk Tradition in Newtown Cathy Andrews,
Pat Denlinge,Joanne Molden,Judy Furlotte
1991 Desert Storm Soldiers Newtown, An All American Tradition Cathy Andrews,
Pat Denlinge,Joanne Molden,Judy Furlotte
1992 Stu & Jean Smith Let’s Have a Parade Nancy Riddle,
Kym Stendahl
1993 Jim & Betty Lou Osbourne Newtown, Young & Old, Growing Together Kym Stendahl
1994 Robert & Caroline Stokes These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things Kym Stendahl
1995 Shirley Ferris Newtown – Tradition Starts Here Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
1996 Jim/Joan Crick Newtown, The Place to be on Labor Day Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
1997 Ginny Lathrop Newtown Our Town Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
1998 Dave Lydem Newtown Celebrates the Flagpole Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
1999 David Merrill A Picture Perfect Town Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
2000 Dan Cruson Newtown History in the Making Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
2001 Mary Mitchell,
Al Goodrich
Let’s Celebrate Newtown’s Natural Beauty Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
2002 Scudder Smith Proud to BEE an American Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
2003 Rosanne Loring,
Debbie Richardson
Newtown’s Faith in the Future Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
2004 Gordon Williams Newtown: Fun For All Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
2005 Mary Hawley (posthumously) Happy Birthday – Newtown Tercentennial Kym Stendahl,
Lisa Franze
2006 Pat Barkman Newtown For Wide Open Spaces Kym Stendahl
2007 Judge William J. Lavery C.H. Booth Library – Keeping Us Reading for 75 Years Kym Stendahl
2008 Mae Schmidle VNA – Keeping Newtown Healthy Kym Stendahl
2009 Julia Wasserman A Passion for Newtown Beth Caldwell
2010 Marge Rogers On Stage In Newtown Beth Caldwell
2011 Lee GLover Celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Newtown’s Parade Beth Caldwell
2012 Kevin’s Community Center Honoring 10 Years of Caring for Newtown Beth Caldwell
2013 Town of Newtown We are Newtown – Marching Strong Beth Caldwell
2014 Sydney Eddison Write On, Newtown! Beth Caldwell
2015 Ruth Newquist Celebrating the Fine Art of Newtown Beth Caldwell
2015 Dr. Bob Grossman There’s No Place Like Home Beth Caldwell