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Sesquicentennial Grand Parade to wrap up city-wide celebration

By Michelle Kealey

Staff Writer

AGAWAM After three years of planning and over 120 units ready to march, the Sesquicentennial Committee is ready for the Grand Parade that will wrap up the celebration of the city's 150th birthday.

Darcy Davis, member of the Sesquicentennial Committee, co-chair of the parade and parade marshall, began working on the city-wide celebration in 2002.

Patty Smith Souder, co-chair of the parade and fund-raising chair, joined in Davis's efforts in August of 2004.

Souder said that she and Davis made an effort to involve as many people who wanted to take part in the parade.

"We did not expect this many would want to take part," she said.

She explained that the 120 units will be broken into six different divisions, all of which will include floats, cars/trucks, bands, and walking units.

In addition to local marching units, the Committee invited neighboring cities and towns to take part in the parade.

Souder said that anyone still interested in marching who has not signed up is still welcome to join the parade.

The Sesquicentennial Grand Parade will step off from Agawam High School on June 19 at 2 p.m. The marchers will then make their way through Feeding Hills Center to the Polish American Club, which will all be blocked off for the parade.

Souder said that she expects the parade will last about three hours due to the large number of participants.

There will be about 20 bands, 24 trucks/vans, 25 marching units, 22 floats and a number of cars and antique vehicles.

Among the units in the parade are: all of the Melha Shriners groups, Boy and Girl Scout Troops, the City Council, Mayor Richard Cohen, the Springfield Falcons Hockey team, a number of local churches, businesses and sports teams, the Agawam Public Library, the Agawam Postal Department, the School Committee, the Class of 1955, the Agawam St. Patrick's Committee, Hurricane Drum and Bugle, Agawam High School Marching Mohawks, Agawam Youth Cheerleaders, Barnes Air Force Base Fire, Agawam Senior Center, local school PTOs and Rosie Robotics.

The parade will be led by Davis, who has given 50 years of service to the community, Souder explained. Davis taught in Agawam schools for 35 years.

According to Souder, Davis was offered the job as the music teacher, which was to begin in the fall of 1955, but he was not sure if he wanted to take the position.

She said that Davis came to Agawam on June 19, 1955 to the Centennial Celebration to see what what kind of city Agawam was.

"He decided it was a community he wanted to be part of," she said. "He's been a gift to everyone who knows him."

She explained that one of the reasons she became so involved in planning the parade was because she was one of Davis's past students.

"I wanted to help him," she said. "He is a treasure to the community. He put in tireless efforts to make sure Agawam had this great representation. He is a kind-hearted, uplifting man [who] is well-deserving of the honor."

She added that Davis would just say "he was doing what people should do."

Mayor Richard Cohen has declared June 19 as Darcy Davis Day in the city of Agawam.

All of the planning done by Souder, Davis and the members of the Sesquicentennial Committee did not come without a cost.

The cost for the parade is about $27,000, which Souder said was mostly to pay for the bands. The Committee also needed $4,000 to pay for police officers on the day of the parade.

Souder explained that the Committee had a fund-raising goal of about $41,000.

The committee was able to raise 82 percent of the goal and the city stepped in to donate $25,000 for the event.

Souder said that much of the money raised was donated by local businesses and residents. In addition, the Committee sold advertising space in the Sesquicentennial program to raise funds.

According to Souder, an interesting aspect about the parade is that it, as well as the other events, will be filmed. Once the events are over, the footage will be made into a DVD to be placed at the library for people to borrow.

She explained that many residents had home movies of the 1955 Centennial Celebration, and have fond memories of the event. She added that many of those movies are being placed together on a DVD.

"We felt that to film the whole event would be a wonderful keepsake," Souder said.

She explained that one of the Committee's goals is to inspire the children in the city because they will be the community members who will have to organize the 200th celebration.

With the celebration ending this week with the parade as the final event, Souder said that she is "excited and relieved."

Other events that will finish out Sesquicentennial Week include:

June 14 Author David Cecchi will be signing copies of his new book Agawam and Feeding Hills Revisited from 5:30 - 8 p.m. at the Captain Leonard House. All of the proceeds will benefit the Agawam Historical Association's efforts to preserve the c. 1757 Thomas Smith House in Feeding Hills.

June 17 Sesquicentennial Ball and Centennial Class of 1955 Reunion. Music provided by The Little Big Band. The event will take place from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. at the Oaks Banquet House.

June 18 "A Tour of Agawam Homes," a house and garden tour from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. in Agawam and Feeding Hills.

June 18 A Tea and Historical Exhibit will be at the Captain Charles Leonard House from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

June 18 Quilt Show from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the Agawam Baptist Church.

June 18 Historical Exhibit and Open House from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the Agawam Historical and Fire House Museum.

June 18 Concert and Family Picnic from 4 p.m. - dusk on the Veterans School/Phelps School.