Stories About How It All Comes Together
from Jen McCuin
It’s funny to think that I’ve been involved in July Fourth planning for the past 18 years. I am the “behind the scenes” person and as surprising as it sounds, the process starts in January. Northstar Fireworks wants to know if “you’re in” and offers its first prepay option for 20%. Paperwork is signed and we get a little more bang for our buck if we have the funds. Sadly, the cost of fireworks has doubled along with so many other things. Funding comes from Aubuchon Hardware’s sponsorship, balloon sales with Roger Kohn and crew, along with the Hilly Hobble Foot Race proceeds. The town did appropriate additional funding to cover the increased cost this year, but we are definitely going to need some serious fundraising to cover the new minimum of $10,000 for 2023’s fireworks.
There are many boxes to check on the July Fourth to-do list.
Contacting a company for port-a-potties, trash/recycling, parade security and clean-up at Hinesburg Community School are the less glamorous pieces, but completely necessary. Tom Giroux is our judge coordinator, grand marshal transportation planner, and provides the longest historical perspective on the commission. Frank Twarog and Tom cover parade lineup and duties at the intersection of Buck Hill Road West. The days’ event schedule is compiled to the best of my ability after reaching out to all the longtime participants like Community Alliance Church, Carpenter-Carse Library’s book sale, and the Hinesburgh Public House. A band to perform, some mini-golf behind the police station, retirements, swear-in ceremonies and maybe something new. As I look back, there are certain memories and traditions that stick in my mind. Fred Webster’s stagecoach from the Northeast Kingdom. The Hinesburg Record’s birthday. Honoring Yvonne Epstein and Natalie Miller from Hinesburg Nursery Store. For longtime traditions, how can you miss the entire Eddy family running the Hilly Hobble Foot Race on the night before July Fourth? One of my favorite themes started as a joke in a meeting, but ended up being so much fun with such creative floats — Winter in July. We had snowmen in the parade that year! How about 2020’s Home Floats? Enough said.
From Tom Giroux
I’ve been involved in Hinesburg’s July 4 for decades. A while back we had a July Fourth committee which I was on, while also being on the Recreation Board. After a number of years, I was the only one left, so the Recreation Board just took it over.
Now July Fourth kind of runs on its own.
Roger Kohn’s group does the balloon sales with profits going to the fireworks.
The Recreation Board picks the theme for the parade. I find judges for the parade, where we hand out awards in 10 categories. And I also find a way to transport the grand marshals, who we on the Recreation Board pick. We urge the board to pick an unpaid citizen who has been involved in the town’s activities for years. I usually ask the chosen grand marshal if they would accept the appointment, which they most often do.
I go to other parades, Vergennes Memorial Day Parade mainly, asking participants to take part in ours. Other town fire departments bring their trucks. I’m not sure if they do so because it’s a tradition, or if because our chief asks them to. We tend to not ask people running for public office to participate (governor, etc.), but we also don’t turn them down if they want to attend. I’ve been involved forever, and believe it or not, we don’t really have any set rules on how the parade goes. I get the state to mow the ditch on the parade start of Route 116. If they say no, then I ask the town to. I also ask the Munsons if we can use their field to park in for the parade floats, and George always goes out of his way to mow the field beforehand. I also ask the development owners across the street from Route 116 and Buck Hill Road if we can use their property for parking and they always say yes.
As the phrase goes, “it takes a village,” and that is so very true in providing you all a satisfying birthday party for the US of A. And again, sorry for those I’ve missed.
From Rufus Patrick
I remember thinking (many years ago) that the Hinesburg Fourth of July parade needed more music. So, I made some phone calls and began recruiting. I believe the first time we played on the flatbed was 1996 and we have continued each year since (other than COVID-19). For the past several years we have been fortunate to have Sean Lang (Mountain’s Edge Farm) provide a trailer and driver. It all started (I am not sure what year) when I got a call from the driver on the morning of July Fourth saying that the band had no ride due to mechanical difficulties. I scrambled around town looking for potential trailers and happened to stop at a prayer service in the little memorial area by Good Times Café. I told one of my band members we would need to cancel. Well word spread quickly and within a few minutes I got a call that Sean was scrambling to hitch up a trailer and would meet us at the loading area — corner of 116 and Beecher Hill Road. What a crazy day, and thanks to Sean Lang and others who made the phone calls, we loaded up and were in the parade.
Because of the parade several of the players mentioned that we should play other than just on the Fourth of July.
Thus, the Hinesburg Community Band was born.
The band is a great group and we typically do three concerts (two at CVU and one in the park) each year as well as play the Fourth of July. It was really great to reestablish the band because my great-grandfather, grandfather and two uncles played in the original Hinesburg Town Band.
From Roger Kohn
The proceeds of balloon sales on the Fourth of July help pay for the fireworks, but a major purpose is to add to the festivities and the enjoyment of the kids. The history of this effort is as follows.
About 1983, Hinesburg decided to put together a bicentennial celebration of the founding of the town with a parade and fireworks. Gay Muller, then the town clerk, came up with the idea to make balloons to celebrate.
My wife Miriam and I, along with a number of other folks, volunteered to help. After all, it sounded like great fun — perhaps because it reminded me of my mother’s ceramic figurine of a balloon seller that I found so intriguing as a child.
That first year, we assisted Gay at the elementary school, where we made balloons in the doorway cupola of the old white building (the original Hinesburg high school).
The balloons were a hit. Children and adults loved them.
After two years, I realized that my office building (Kohn Rath) in the village would be a much better place to blow up balloons, because we could store them inside. This allows us to make them before the parade and before the fireworks, to keep up with demand. It is quite a sight to see the entire first floor filled with colorful balloons!
We have always used 16-inch balloons (which are much larger and more attractive than the commonplace 11-inch balloons). Deciding on colors and patterns has been fun, although as of 2022, 16-inch balloons are no longer made in patterns, probably because the cost of helium has increased so much that the larger balloons are not used as much (interestingly, we discovered that helium is mined, and is needed in the operation of MRI machines — a few years ago there was a shortage of helium, and I think we were unable to make balloons that year).
Over the years, many people have played a role in creating the Fourth of July balloons.
After a year or two, Gay Muller resigned as town clerk, and my wife, Miriam Adams Kohn, and I took over the organization of the sale, helped by a very dedicated group of volunteers. Our daughter Nina also enjoyed selling balloons as she grew up. Gene Giroux, who lives next door to my office, has made balloons since we started making them at the office — talk about dedication! Other regular volunteers have included Jean Isham, Bill Lippert, Enrique Peredo, Andrea Morgante, Ray and Pat Mainer, and Aaron and Kim Kimball and their son Ethan. Other folks included Kevin Lewis, Merrily Lovell, Maggie Gordon, Howdy Russell, Roger and Elaine Lawson, Freeda Powers, Judy Chafee and Jennie and Katrina Wilson (I’m sure there are others, and I apologize to those I left out). This has been quite a group effort!
Even after all these years, it is still great fun seeing the kids try to decide what color balloon to get — this can be a very difficult decision! Sometimes the parents prefer a different color, but the child always wins the discussion. And whatever choice is made, the balloon will become part of the bobbing colors that add to the celebratory spirit of the day.