Parading with Ted Morgan
Just as the arrival of summer tourist season is a blend of the predictable and the unpredictable, Fred B. "Ted" Morgan Jr. notes that the annual July fourth parade is a similar mixture. Mr. Morgan, organizer and marshal of the annual Fourth of July parade, describes the parade as the start of the summer season. "It's considered a typical small town patriotic parade," he says simply.
This year's parade will feature long-time favorites: the fire department, state and local officials, bands, organizations, and theme floats. "The interest always seems to be there," Mr. Morgan says.
The parade's patriotic significance has special meaning for Mr. Morgan. An Edgartown selectman for almost 30 years, Mr. Morgan was a member of the 505th parachute infantry regiment, 82nd Airborne, during World War II. He fought in Sicily, Normandy, and Holland and participated in the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.
Still trim and fit-looking in his uniform, Mr. Morgan has been involved with the parade for 38 years, acting as organizer and marshal for the last 20. In the course of his tenure, Mr. Morgan has turned the parade into a smoothly run, well-oiled machine.
In any discussion of the parade, Mr. Morgan is quick to note the American Legion Post 186 in Edgartown. He says the group meets regularly over the winter to work on the event.
Mr. Morgan, who will turn 87 in September, downplays his contribution by explaining that he is retired and has the time to spend. Those familiar with the indefatigable Mr. Morgan know it is more than a question of extra time on his hands.
Although it is clear that he has the entire parade under control, his composure is jarred for a moment when asked about the newest participants in the almost 60-year-old tradition. He laughs and says, "There are different new things every year, but we really don't know exactly what we're dealing with until we get there."
He does know that The Bay Street Band, The Colonial Navy (a Revolutionary War style band), and a band of Scottish bagpipers will provide the music along the route. A fleet of antique automobiles will join the parade and regular participants like Camp Jabberwocky will certainly be in the mix, but an exact headcount is rarely accurate until the parade starts moving. Organizing the many automobiles, all of the floats, and scores of marchers can only be done on the day of the parade.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
"It all goes down on the fourth," says Mr. Morgan.
And the job has become more complicated over the years. "It's definitely gotten more hectic," says Mr. Morgan calmly. "A few years ago, we had so many antique cars and willing participants that we had a legitimate worry that when the parade snaked back around, the front of it would run into the back."
The parade has since been streamlined, and the number of antique cars reduced. The emphasis is now directed toward other aspects of the parade, including the honoring of war veterans.
"The veterans always tell me how much they love it," Mr. Morgan says. "The thousands of people lining the streets - they cheer, they sing, they clap, and it gives [the veterans] a very deserved proud feeling."
Veterans and Island officials will be seated on the official reviewing stand located in front of the Whaling Church on Main Street.
This year the parade's reviewing officer will be Major General Joseph Carter, who in Oct. 2007 became the first African-American to assume command of the Massachusetts National Guard in its 371-year history. Mr. Carter, an Oak Bluffs resident, is that town's former police chief.
Asked to choose his favorite aspect of the parade he has organized for so long, Mr. Morgan chuckles and says, "It's impossible to have a favorite. The bands -if we didn't have The Bay Street Band I don't know what we'd do - the veterans, the floats.... Each different category makes up the parade."
His real desire is for people to simply enjoy themselves. "It's all about the people," Ted Morgan says, explaining that is why he has stayed involved for so long. "We spend a lot of time setting up," he says, "but it's always fun. People really look forward to it."
The Fourth of July parade departs from the Edgartown School at 5 pm, proceeds to Main Street, follows Pease's Point Way out to the Harbor View Hotel, then along North Water Street back to Main Street where it passes the reviewing stand at the Old Whaling Church, and back to the school.
The day's festivities end with a bang over Edgartown harbor when fireworks light up the night sky beginning shortly after dusk, at approximately 9 pm.
Peter Kirn, a seasonal resident, is a student at Colby College in Maine.