The 67th annual Fishtown Horribles Parade — Gloucester's wild and whacky take on a curious New England Independence Day custom, starts tonight at 6 sharp, with the usual "horrible" cast of homemade characters stepping off from the Gloucester High School staging area.
From there, police Lt. Joe Aiello notes, it will wend its way down Centennial Avenue to a jam-packed, flag-festooned, star-spangled Stacey Boulevard; spoof and goof its way across to Rogers Street; move up through cheering crowds to Manual Lewis Street before hanging a left onto Main, turn right on Pleasant Street, right again on Railroad Avenue, right again at Washington Street, then left onto Centennial and back on down to the high school, where the whole horrible business began in the first place.
Appearances to the contrary, the hilariously disorganized spectacle takes a lot of organization, with months of preparation and fund-raising by committee organizers including Wes Tucker and Al Kipp.
Although the old-time parade includes plenty of patriotic displays, fancy floats, marching bands, politicians, businesses and fire engines, it's not your typical regimental Fourth of July display, and that's exactly why Gloucester — a town famous for having a mind of its own — loves it.
Aiello on Monday reminded residents that certain traditional rules and regulations do apply, and will be strictly enforced. There is absolutely no parking, for instance, anywhere, under any circumstances, on Western Avenue and on the right side of Lincoln Avenue from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Also the Gloucester Police Department has had more than its fair share of policing this past week, with five days of Fiesta revellers. This year, with fiesta merging almost seamlessly with Fourth of July festivities, the last thing they need, says fireworks committee head Barry Pett, is people calling them for information about tonight's events.
"Please don't call the Police or Fire departments" for updates on tonight's fireworks, pleads Pett, who says that in past years their phone lines have been tied up for hours with callers wanting information on scheduling.
Pett says that information on The Gloucester Fund's fireworks show, which start promptly at 9:30 p.m., is updated constantly on the Gloucester Fireworks Facebook page. Any last-minute change due to inclement weather — highly unlikely, given weather forecasts as of Monday — will be posted if necessary.
The Horribles Parade, which takes about two hours to complete its full route, finishes its Boulevard route by about 7 p.m. At that point, says Pett, local bands will strike up a concert by the Blynman Bridge until the fireworks begin. This year, the 20-minute fireworks display starts with a tribute in the sky to Caleigh Harrison, the tiny Gloucester toddler who's been missing since April 19, when she vanished without a trace from Rockport's Long Beach.
The tribute, says Pett, will be an explosion of purple and green — purple for Caleigh's favorite color, and green in honor of all missing children.
Children, says Pett, are really the focus of all of Gloucester's Independence Day festivities.
And parents, says Lt. Aiello, should supervise their children carefully along the thronged parade route, particularly small children sitting on curbs, who can get too close for comfort to moving vehicles and floats.
Gloucester's first Fishtown Horribles parade wound its way along Main Street in 1945. A parody of more traditional Independence Day parades, its irreverent, satirical displays and costumes took a healthy, good-humored swipe at political and cultural issues. Nothing was sacred then as locals spoofed local and national politics; and nothing is sacred today.
There is no fee or pre-registration for the parade, and while some participants spend weeks constructing elaborate floats and costumes, others might just decide to concoct some last-minute kookiness in the final days leading up to Horribles night.
That's what Torrie Asaro, Samantha Alves, Brittany Salah, Rachelyn Salah and Samarah Salah did over the weekend and Monday afternoon.
After they'd finished serving eggs, bacon, coffee, and ice cream for customers at George's Coffee Shop and Salah's Scoops on Washington Street, they whipped up eggs, bacon, coffee, milk shakes and ice cream posterboards that they'll wear tonight, adding more goodies to the feast of the Horribles Parade.
Floats will once again vie for prizes, and as usual, you can expect some fierce competition, especially from past winners, such as GoodMorningGloucester's giant "Homey" seagull.
"We're bringing out our A-game this year," says GMG's "Homey" creator, Joey Ciaramitaro, "and we're looking forward to tail-gating with all our fellow competitors and friends and all their positive energy."
Joann Mackenzie can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3457, or email@example.com.
Celebrating the Fourth
Parade: Tonight, Fishtown Horribles Parade, 6 p.m. from Gloucester High School.
Fireworks: 9:30 p.m. from Stage Fort Park.
Reading of Declaration of Independence, Wednesday, 10 a.m., Dock Square.
Parade: Firemen's Parade, Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Bonfire: Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., Back Beach.
Fireworks: Tonight, 9:30, Singing Beach (After pre-fireworks concert, 7:15 p.m.)
Parade: Wednesday, 10 a.m.; skydivers land at Coach Ed Field Playground, 12:15 p.m.
Parade: Chebacco Lake Boat Parade, Wednesday, 1 p.m.