A chat with Connie LaRue: This year’s Grand Marshal for the 4th of July parade
The Block Island community’s Fourth of July festivities have not always been such a significant island event. There was a 23-year gap between an organized Fourth of July Parade in 1961 and when the Town Fun Committee (now a non-profit called Double Ender Celebrations) was formed and coordinated a parade in 1984 (aside from some unofficial, impromptu versions of the parade).
“It was small... no floats! Tom Fitzgerald carried our flag for the first two or three years! We left when the noon whistle blew!” said Connie LaRue, Chairman Emeritus of the Double Enders and this year’s elected Grand Marshal. LaRue has been a participant in the organization since it began.
The name Double Ender Committee celebrates the double ender boat, the famous fishing vessel built for stormy seas. The “double end” was meant to signify that the group would orchestrate more than one event per year, as it did early on. The original purpose of the committee was “to celebrate the founding of the United States of America and to honor those who... lost their lives defending us,” explained LaRue. “We still do,” she stated.
According to LaRue, early members of the association include Bonnie McKay, Edie Blane, Eleanor Garrett, Mac Todd, Lou and Tom Ritzinger, Don Littlefield (as Uncle Sam), David Gunter, Jack Gray, Fred Benson, Lois Bendokas, Dan Cahill, Betty Gann, Gwen Hart, and Tom Fitzgerald who now leads the Taunton Band.
LaRue estimates that only about 20 or so people attended the 1984 parade and most onlookers were islanders. She thinks that up to 5,000 people will watch the parade this year.
Since 1984, the parade has not been canceled or postponed. It has faced only one major threat: a nor’easter occurring in the late 1980s, but the event proceeded anyway.
The main challenge facing the Double Enders is the issue of support. “Our funding comes from donations. It’s been close, but everyone comes through!” remarked LaRue. (Donations can be made to Double Ender Celebrations, Inc., Box 808, Block Island, R.I. 02807.)
This year’s parade theme is “A Tribute to Walt Disney.” The committee usually generates ideas for the motif; however, suggestions are welcome. Anyone is allowed to participate in the march. The floats will be judged by volunteers who have approached the committee and will receive the following distinctions: Grand Prize, First, Second, Third, Honorable Mention. In addition, judges award medals for such floats as best commercial or best children’s float.
It is thanks to donations and the hard work of the Double Ender Celebrations committee that the Block Island Fourth of July parade took place for its 29th consecutive year this past week.
Arianna Bauer is a high school sophomore from North Scituate, R.I. She has been a summer resident of Block Island for the past seven years. She is an avid writer, skier, dancer, singer and filmmaker. She is a four-year member of her school newspaper and wishes to pursue a career in journalism.