Groundhog Parade

6 02 2017

joe-at-essex-parade-2017-alisa-lebovitzJanuary 29, 2017

My friend Joe, color guard for the Sailing Masters, the Essex CT fife and drum corps, told me about the Essex Groundhog Parade. The weekend before Groundhog Day, a plastic six-foot groundhog statue (“Essex Ed”) is loaded onto a truck near the cove, driven a half mile through this small town of 6,500, and followed by antique cars, the Ancient Mariners, and local groups. Wearing groundhog paraphernalia, spectators bang pots and pans. Each year, a different sponsor dresses Essex Ed in timely costume.


Looking for something silly and nonpolitical, I convinced three of my Essex colleagues who had also never been to the parade to join me. When we arrived, my friend Barbara, who knows everyone in town, led us to the staging area, where she whispered that Ed would be Edna this year for the first time. With flourishes and drum roll, along with hot chocolate and groundhog-shaped cookies, organizers opened a huge garage door to see the fruition of the Child and Family Agency’s efforts: and it’s….Edna as Princess Leia!!

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Somehow, we were invited to march with Child and Family Agency members and away we went, banging our pots and cowbell. The Ancient Mariners led the way, followed by a small contingency from Punxsutawney, PA, the home of Phil, the famous groundhog.  Then our group, followed by the local girls’ crew team – women predominated here this year. Some old cars, and then came Princess Leia in the back of a bright yellow Dickenson Witch Hazel truck. In no time, we reached Main Street and waved at the viewers in their silly hats who were making a racket with their spoons and pot lids. Smiles all around, with marchers greeting bystanders they recognized. Even I, an out-of-towner, saw people along the route I know.


In Connecticut, the land of steady habits, in a small town where Main Street still boasts homes primarily from 1790 to 1820, a median income of $89,000, but a history rich in rebellion, an agency whose very services are under fire chose for the first time to dress this town’s tradition as a woman, and one admired for the qualities of strength and hope, no less. To me, it was a subtle political statement, somewhat masked by the good-natured participation of those attending. But I was proud to have been able to add my noise to the celebration.


Princess Leia, shine your message of strength and hope on us as we march through the remaining weeks of winter, however many more there may be!

Additional Photo Credits: Alisa Lebovitz, Barbara Benjamin Haines