BY MAT CLOUSER
BRANDON — For more than 40 years, the town of Brandon has held a parade and celebration in honor of America’s birthday. This year’s Independence Day celebration will take place on Saturday, July 2 — America’s 246th.
This year’s Grand Marshall, Warren Kimble, has long been a fixture of those parades, dressed customarily as Uncle Sam. At 87, this year will mark Kimble’s first time serving in an official capacity.
“I guess I’ve just been in the parade for too long,” he said when asked why he thought he’d been chosen for Grand Marshall duties.
Kimble, who first moved to Brandon from New Jersey in 1970, said he’s got too many memories to recount. “We’ve done it in the pouring rain and got soaked, and when it was so hot, we’d get overheated,” he said. “It’s always been one of the best parades in the state.”
“One year, we tried doing the parade twice through downtown, but that didn’t work out so well,” he said, telling the story of an ill-fated Howard Dean float. “He was running for governor, I think. A pregnant woman was on the float, and on the second pass, she had the baby.”
Kimble has long been a proponent of all things Brandon, including championing the arts—forming the Brandon Artist’s Guild—and helping build Green park. He’s lived in 19 different Brandon houses over the years and calls moving to town one of his most significant life decisions.
“Brandon’s got good bones,” he said. “I think we’ve changed [over the years] for the better.”
“It’s a real Vermont town. People fall in love with this town,” he continued, “It’s been my mission to make it a good place to live—for everybody.”
As for the parade itself, “It’s so old-fashioned and traditional,” he said. “It really portrays the warmth and character of this town.”
In addition to Mr. Kimble, this year’s parade will feature a wide array of local participants, including several politicians eager to gain visibility ahead of the upcoming elections, and a unique electric-vehicle display courtesy of the Brandon Energy Committee.
Drivers in the area should expect road closures during the parade and can expect to be detoured along Country Club Road, eventually reconnecting to Route 7 via Lover’s Lane.
After the parade will be a full day’s worth of activities, including food, music, games, town fundraising efforts, and a host of other activities for the whole family—all culminating in the traditional fireworks display above downtown, with the best views typically in the Central Park area facing west.
The complete list of events is as follows:
- 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. — The parade will run from the intersection of Park Street and High Street, through downtown along Route 7/Center Street, ending at Brandon Lumber.
- 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — The Runnin’ Wild jazz band, led by Gene Childers, will perform at the Central Park gazebo.
- 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — The annual silent auction will be held in the Congregational Church’s Fellowship Hall to help raise funds to cover the cost of the Independence Day festivities.
- 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — The Brandon Inn will host family activities in the green space behind the inn. The activities—sponsored by the Brandon Area Toy Project, Heritage Credit Union, and the Neshobe PTO—will include lawn games, trampolines, and a mechanical bull.
- 12 p.m. — World-Record Holder and Swiss Roll Eating Champion Arturo Mendiola will attempt to defend his title in the Little Debbie Swiss Roll eating contest at the Gazebo behind the Brandon Inn. Attendees are encouraged to arrive promptly as the contest was won in only 93 seconds last year.
- 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. — Red Clover Ale will host a beer garden in Green Park, directly across Center Street from the brewery.
- 3 p.m. — The annual Duck Race will be held at Neshobe Falls. Prizes of $100, $50, and $25 will be awarded to the top three finishers with the remainder of the proceeds going to cover the cost of the fireworks and festivities. Anyone interested in purchasing a duck may do so directly at the sales booth adjacent to the farmer’s market at Central Park on July 1, or on race day, July 2, at one of the tables set up in Kennedy Park and on the lawn behind the Brandon Inn. Those unable to attend either the farmer’s market or the event itself and who would like to purchase an entry into the race may make arrangements to do so remotely via Facebook messaging @BrandonVTDucks.
- 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. — Moose Crossing will perform high-energy rock, blues, and funk-tinged jazz at Red Clover’s beer garden in Green Park.
- 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. — The annual Street Dance will be in front of Bar Harbor Bank, featuring Jam Man Entertainment with DJ Mandy.
- Dusk — The fireworks display will be above downtown Brandon with the best views in the Central Park area facing west.