BRISTOL - In order to be a first-timer to the Mum Parade you must either be one year old or new to the area.
Everyone lining the streets and marching Sunday afternoon seemed to be seasoned professionals celebrating a yearly tradition.
The 56th annual Mum Parade brought thousands downtown, including Linda Henry and her great-granddaughter Skylee. The 5-year-old Bristol resident was wearing a yellow T-shirt that read ‘Mum Festival.’ According to Henry, it is a family heirloom.
“Her grandmother wore that shirt in the Mum Parade over 35 years ago,” she explained. “We’ve only missed a couple in the 45 years we’ve been in Bristol. It’s a fun thing to do for the community.”
Carol Murdock and Ron Davis had the best seats in the house: in the bed of his pickup truck, right beside the parade reviewing stand, on the corner of Memorial Boulevard and Main Street.
“We’re enjoying the beautiful day,” said Davis, who used to help set up the stand as an employee with the Bristol Parks and Recreation Department.
He retired in 2006, after 31 years. Since then he’s had the simple pleasure of sitting back and watching the Mum Parade.
“It’s a day that brings out most Bristol-ites,” Davis said. “The volunteers do a good job with this and the kids enjoy it.”
One of those volunteers was Peter Paradis, who relayed information across the route to the people running the show, radio in-hand. If a group drops out of the lineup, for example, the judges need to know.
“We’ve been doing this for 15 to 20 years,” Paradis said. “I’m a Bristol native. I’ve been coming to this parade since I was a kid.”
We Adopt Greyhounds (WAG) was one of the few groups that elected not to participate Sunday, due to the heat.
“The president of our organization came out to assess the well-being of the dogs and decided it was too hot,” Lesly Bartlett said as she took turns giving water to Polo and Leia, two greyhounds she had planned to march with.
The Mum Parade Committee was led by Festival Chairman Jack Ferraro and Parade Commander Dianna Tack. Arts and Entertainment Chairwoman Maria Salice kept the crowd at the end of the route entertained, since the procession reached them last.
“We’ve been doing golf kart karaoke,” Salice said. “People are being shy, so I’ve been singing.”
She shared the Master of Ceremonies title with Alan Stone, who is also no stranger to the Mum Parade.
“I’ve been in this parade multiple times and I’ve been coming to it since I was a little kid,” Stone said. “It’s been a great part of my life.”
A live auction followed the parade. Proceeds benefited Bristol Hospital’s Parent and Child Center.
Mum fun continues Tuesday with a free concert by the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble at Bristol Eastern High School at 7 p.m. Piano soloist Anna Pan will be the evening’s special guest.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.