ESSEX — Residents came out en masse Saturday morning to show their Essex pride during the town's Bicentennial Parade.
The parade was the coup de grâce of a year-long event series organized by the Essex Bicentennial Committee. Each month, the committee would host an event celebrating Essex's 200th year as a town.
August saw two events. The first, a fireworks display, was held the day prior to the parade. Essex Police estimated that some 3,000 to 4,000 people were at Shepard Memorial Park on Friday night in addition to the countless others who watched the pyrotechnics from the Main Street Causeway.
At 10 Saturday morning, the crowds were back to cheer on the parade, which traveled from Main Street, Western Avenue, Winthrop Street and Martin Street.
Leading the procession were the parade's ambassadors, which included Gil Guerin, a World War II Army veteran and former owner of Wedgewood Pharmacy; Connie Perrigo, Essex's first kindergarten teacher; and Patricia Lyons Harrington, the town's oldest resident at 105.
Randall Lane, another parade ambassador, is a 100-year-old lifelong Essex resident who served in the Navy during World War II. He was escorted in a 1929 Packard driven by former state Rep. Tim Clark.
"Five presidents have ridden in this car," Clark said, "and I'm happy to have Randall ride along in it."
State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester marched behind the ambassadors alongside the Essex Board of Selectmen.
"This is an incredible celebration of a great town," Tarr said. "It's a great demonstration of how much people care about Essex."
Local Cape Ann organizations, businesses and residents crafted their own floats for the parade. For example, staff of Essex's TOHP Burnham Library created a bicentennial birthday cake made of library books. First Bank of Ipswich had a person dressed up as its mascot, Shucky the Clam, riding on the roof of a truck. And Marshall's Farmstand of Gloucester towed along a mini-barn on a trailer complete with live alpacas.
Walter Rich, a direct descendant of 15th century Essex settler John Cogswell, and his family celebrated his lineage aboard a large wooden ship float. His children, Johnathan, 11, and Charlotte, 9, and their cousins Jack Murphy, 9, and Claire Murphy, 7, rode along dressed as pilgrims and threw candy out to the spectators.
The workers of Woodman's were having a rip-roaring time watching the parade from the roof of the restaurant, which celebrated its 100th year of business in Essex in 2014. When their own float came around the bend on Main Street, the employees on the roof pelted their float-riding coworkers with a torrent of salt-water taffy.
"I really liked the (First Ipswich Bank) clam float," said kitchen staffer Clare Williams, who was watching the parade curbside. "That was really cute. And the Boston Firefighters Band," one of the three bands marching in the parade.
Bringing up the rear was the Aleppo Shriners of Wilmington. This was their first appearance at a North Shore parade in over 30 years, and they did not disappoint. The group brought along their motorcycle club, fire brigade, circus clowns, olds-mobile unit, go-carts, miniature cars and more.
"To be celebrating a town's 200th birthday is a real honor," said Shriners Potentate Robert Havener. "The weather's been great, the neighborhoods are nice, and the reception from the crowd has been outstanding."
Indeed, the crowd had many positive things to say about this weekend's festivities.
"I'm 77 years old and I've never seen a fireworks display as good as the one on Friday," said Essex resident Jef Hyde.
His wife, Marlene, agreed.
"The Bicentennial Committee put in a lot of work," she said. "They need to be recognized for their commitment."
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or email@example.com.