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Fourth of July in Morristown brings a parade of memories

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MORRISTOWN — It’s been 34 years since the Clarks looked upon the Morristown Fourth of July Parade for the first time through the window of their mobile concession stand, but it’s the memory of that day, and many that followed, that continues to bring them back to the annual event.

Standing in the crowd lining Main Street in the village Friday, Don F. Clark, his wife, Diane B, both of Ogdensburg, and Mr. Clark’s mother, Mary N., of Canton, said the fondness they have for the parade is immeasurable.

Mr. and Mrs. Clark said they were hired by the Morristown Fire Department in 1980 to be the first mobile concession stand to feed parade goers. The family has long since sold the snack business, but that hasn’t kept them from returning.

“Our youngest child was born that year, so I remember her sitting in the concession stand with us in the car seat,” Mrs. Clark said. “Our middle child was out front making popcorn with his grandfather, and our oldest was making cotton candy.”

“Yeah, that was the year she earned enough money to buy herself a bike and quit the family business,” Mr. Clark said with a chuckle.

Mr. Clark, a teacher by trade, said he has met coworkers at the event every year. He said the north country is fortunate to have such grand parades, as they really tie a community together.

“This is also a real tribute to the firemen and -women of Northern New York,” Mr. Clark said. “The amount of time that they spend away from their families is a major sacrifice, and I don’t know what we would do without them.”

Rolling through the village, the parade of volunteer fire departments that joined the Morristown crew included Brier Hill, Canton, Hammond, Hermon, Lisbon, Morley and Rensselaer Falls.

“We even have the fire department from Prescott, Ontario,” parade Chairman Christopher J. Sherwin said, adding that the Prescott and Morristown volunteer departments have crossed the border to assist each other.

The parade has no specific structure or prerequisites for participation, Mr. Sherwin said.

“This is a very family-oriented parade. If someone wants to be in it, all they have to do is come see me before,” Mr. Sherwin said. “This is just a real homecoming for a lot of people that have grown up here and moved away.”

Mr. Sherwin took over the organization of the parade this year after the September death of 64-year-old Stephen A. Spilman, its chairman for more than 35 years.

“He is certainly here in spirit,” Mr. Sherwin said as he pointed to Mr. Spilman’s 1951 Henry J, which led the parade. “You would see Steve driving that thing around all summer.”

And as the trucks, floats, politicians and high school bands made their way through the heart of the village, Cecilia J. Sowell, her sister, Linda M. Buchey, their cousin, Nancy L. Dulmage, and Ms. Dulmage’s daughter, Desire M., were all in agreement that the highlight each year is being surrounded by family.

“My mother had 13 kids and so we come every year because my family lives here,” Ms. Sowell said.

Both Ms. Sowell and the elder Ms. Dulmage are members of the Morristown Volunteer Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary.

“It’s always like a family reunion,” the younger Ms. Dulmage said.

That sense of family rang throughout the parade; parents with their children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and Mr. Clark’s mother, Mary, a grandmother who said that although she didn’t have her grandchildren with her today, the memory of that mobile concession stand filled with her grandkids is still with her.

“I was always surrounded by my grandchildren,” Mrs. Clark said. “It’s my favorite memory.”

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