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Pittsfield July 4 Parade 2024: Sparking Honor and Bittersweet Endings
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:43AM / Tuesday, July 02, 2024
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Parade President Peter Marchetti celebrates at the return of the parade after the pandemic in 2022. This year's will be his last now that he's mayor of Pittsfield.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — For William "Bill" Sturgeon, being the grand marshal of the historic Fourth of July parade "means everything." Meanwhile, it's a bittersweet time for Mayor Peter Marchetti, who's stepping down as parade leader after more than two decades.

During Pittsfield Community Television's "Parade in Preview" program, it was revealed that Sturgeon didn't believe Marchetti when he first got the call. He initially said, "yeah right" in disbelief.

"It means everything," he said. "I remember the only time I missed the parade, I didn't live here. I never missed it. If it snowed I'd be there. I've stood in the pouring rain, in the heat, and cheered everybody."

Marchetti said there was unanimous support amongst the Pittsfield Parade Committee for the WTBR radio personality, community volunteer, and veteran.

"This year in probably all of the years that I've been around trying to choose a grand marshal, there was a consensus from the get-go and I think some of it is that many of us have heard what the Fourth of July means to Bill, what Bill missed when he was serving the country overseas, and so those kinds of things matter," he said, pointing to Sturgeon's involvement on boards and commissions to "push the needle to make Pittsfield a better place."

PCTV's engagement and experience coordinator Matthew Tucker said, "anyone who has been listening to the radio for any period of time" will recognize Sturgeon.

The grand marshal feels "honored humbled, and privileged." He thanked the "Polish Princess," his wife Rose, for 53 years of supporting him through thick and thin.

Sturgeon is sure that his father, who was a firefighter, and his mother are looking down at him from heaven proudly. Earlier this year, he was named 2024 Irish Person of the Year by the Irish American Club of Berkshire County.

The 2024 parade, themed "Red, White, Blue and YOU," will feature more than 160 units marching the downtown corridor. It is a bittersweet year for Marchetti, as he will be handing the reins over to Rebecca Brien, the managing director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc.

"It's been 22, 23 years of my life that I'll tell you how to do parade morning, that's what you're in charge of, that's what you did," he said.

"So it will be a bittersweet parade to say, 'This isn't mine any more' and there is a part of me that says it will always be mine because I don't think I'll ever just completely walk away from it."

Marchetti explained that in late 2022 when they were electing the president of the committee, he made it clear that he was running for mayor in the 2023 election. When it was asked if anyone would like to take over, there were "crickets."

Brien and Kristine Rose stepped in as co-coordinators and Brien will take over as president later this year while Marchetti finishes his term as a committee member.

"I have done much better than I thought I was going to do by letting go and have kind of been, 'Hey, if this parade is going to survive, now is the time while we're here to suck the knowledge out of one person's brain and put it into another,'" he explained.

"And we have, I think from a coordinator's standpoint a dynamic duo. You have a doer in Rebecca and an organizer in Kristine."

Brien explained that this is different from the volunteering she has done over the past six years for the committee and that the amount of knowledge being passed down to her is "just amazing."

"This year in transition, my day job has been very busy this year with a number of things going on, as does Pete's, of course, is triple that," she said.

"So I think a lot of it is finding the time and finding the right time because things have to be done in a certain time manner."

Marchetti said, "the people at home, they know there's a lot of work involved in putting on the parade but they don't know that there's a lot of work in putting on the parade."

The theme is chosen in October and from Memorial Day through Father's Day weekend, the preparation takes up all of the planner's free time. He described the challenge of getting each unit properly identified and placing them in the parade accordingly.

"To me, the Fourth of July is two things. One is honoring the birth of our country, the men and women who fought for our country, and then let's have a party. There's the veteran side of things and then there's the happy birthday exciting things and they don't mix, they just don't mix. There's the respect piece and the party piece," he said.

"And so that's easy. The first 25 units are somehow generally military related but then you have all the other units and somewhere along the lines, we just didn't have marching bands in parades anymore. We had floats that had music on them. Well, you can't have a marching band and a float with music right behind them."

There is a fully packed week of events surrounding the Fourth of July from June 30 to July 7. Fireworks have been confirmed for the 4th at Wahconah Park at 9 p.m. following the game at 6:30 p.m. between the Great Barrington Millers and the Housatonic River Monsters.

The fireworks are paid for by the Pittsfield Suns organization.

PCTV was recognized as a crucial partner for the parade, providing multi-camera live streams for people who couldn't attend and documentation of the event.

Marchetti explained that the community TV station starts planning for the event as early as March and has 20 or so volunteers working on set up and break down.

"You can't do your job if we don't do ours but we put on the top-notch parade and you guys are there to capture the moment and share it with everyone at home who can't get out and see," he said.

The parade can be watched on PCTV's Access Pittsfield channel 1301, PCTV's website, and the Pittsfield Parade website. It can also be found on WTBR FM, PCTV's Facebook and YouTube pages, and countywide and beyond on other local access centers that are partnering with PCTV.

"I'd like to thank everyone who supports Pittsfield Community Television and the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade Committee and allows us to be able to create these fantastic and delightful programs for the community," Tucker said.

"Without viewers like you, we couldn't make programming like this happen."

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