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By Erin Post
A creaky old 'military industrial complex,' followed closely by a hooverator pointing the way forward, shared Main Street with children of the corn, alien ships, pigs, and a whole lot of carbon footprints during Warren's 59th annual Fourth of July parade.
Float-makers churned out a cornucopia of interpretations on this year's theme: Fueling the Future.
Sugarbush touted its use of biodiesel while friends of Mad River Glen paraded down Main Street with cow cut-outs, asking parade-watchers to consider "remooable energy."
Drumley's Drummers pounded out a 'reduce, reuse, recycle' tune on old plastic buckets, stopping in front of the judges to chant in a circle.
A crew from Sellers and Company Architects created the silhouette of a city, an alien ship rising from the skyscrapers as men and women clad as 'illegal aliens,' INS officials at their heels, swirled around the buildings. It all met with applause and camera flashes: Parade-goers seemed game for whatever made its way down Main Street.
Although attendance was likely slightly lower than usual -- in part because the Fourth fell on a Wednesday -- Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce director Susan Roy estimated that there were still about 5,000 people lining the streets.
Moretown resident Rebecca Busker said she's been to every Warren parade for the last seven years or so; her husband, Dave, has been turning out for close to a decade. Although their three-year-old son is also a veteran parade-goer, this Independence Day was the first for their three-month-old daughter. Clad in a floppy sun hat, she happily slept through most of the lead-up to the parade.
It was also the first Warren parade for Rebecca's sister, Jessica Cagno, who came from Connecticut with her four-month-old daughter to take part. Rebecca said she dished out some sisterly advice to prepare Jessica for an event well-known for its irreverent take on the politics of the day: "I told her to keep an open mind," Rebecca laughed.
On top of the chance to celebrate the creativity of Valley residents, she said it's the sense of community that makes the Warren event special.
"It wouldn't be the Fourth without it," she said.
One couple, Sherwood and Dawn Richards, in town from Farmingdale, Maine, came to the parade without any idea what to expect. Sherwood said they are in Vermont for a quilt festival, heard about the Warren event and decided to check it out.
As they surveyed the goings-on in front of the Warren Town Hall, they marveled at the festive atmosphere.
"You don't see too many houses" in this rural area, Dawn said, but laughed that people seemed to "come out of the woodwork" for the Fourth of July happenings.
New Jersey-ite Peggy Banas said her family decided to make the trip in part because her husband has been a parade devotee in the past.
"I have no idea [what to expect]," she said. "We'll see. It'll be a surprise."
Some float-makers said they wanted to encourage the exchange of ideas, not expound any one viewpoint.
Garth Brown, who helped create the Sellers and Company float and participated as an 'illegal alien,' said the float came together over a few days, and was predicated in part on somehow incorporating a spaceship in the design.
In the end, it was all about having some fun.
"I don't think there was one message we were sending out," he said. "Maybe we'll get people to think a little bit."
This year's Fourth of July parade also attracted a film crew from Globo TV, which broadcasts in Brazil.
Correspondent Luis Fernando Silva-Pinto said his Washington D.C.-based crew is producing a segment on Vermont's secessionist movement, and has already shot footage in Burlington and Montpelier.
One goal for the story is to acquaint viewers with ordinary Americans outside of the beltway, Americans who may be unhappy with current events. It's important to make a distinction between "the government of the day," he said, and the country itself.
And the Warren parade, with its home-grown concoctions and air of improvisation, certainly provided a window into that world, said Silva-Pinto.
"It's so refreshingly natural," he said as parade-goers made their way out of the village. "It's so un-Macy's."
This year's judges awarded prizes to the following parade entries: Best antique car: 1951 Mercury. Best bike: Yestermorrow. Best commercial: Sugarbush. Best decorated: Village Grocery. Best in show: Prickly Mountain. Best theme: Dr. Butsch. Best kids' float: Warren Skate Park. Best musical: Drumley's Drummers. Best performance: Circus Smirkus. Best non-Prickly Mountain: Warren Village People. Best dog: Mad Rally.
Naughtiest judge: Audrey Mosley.
According to the chamber of commerce, donations are still being accepted to help fund the Fourth festivities. All together, the event cost about $16,000 this year. Contact the chamber or visit www.madrivervalley.com
Due to rain, this year's fireworks show has been rescheduled to Saturday, July 7. Start time is dusk at Sugarbush's Lincoln Peak base area.