A Mello Tradition - family fun on the fourth

Rick and Sarah Mello
The beginning of it all. My sister Sarah and I as Raggedy Ann & Andy in 1981.

By Rick Mello III - June 28, 2007

With a bright red yarn wig and red dots painted on my face, I made my debut in the Edgartown Fourth of July Parade as Raggedy Andy 26 years ago.

The year was 1981 and it was my family's first time participating in the parade. My mom, Sharon Mello, dressed my sister, Sarah, age 3 and myself, 6, as Raggedy Ann & Andy and we all rode in the back of an antique 1936 Chevy pickup. The truck was decorated with various red, white, and blue accoutrements, as my dad, Rick Mello Jr., rode up front and his brother Tommy Mello drove. The combination of the truck decorations and the color ensemble of the dolls my sister and I portrayed won us the "Most Patriotic" award.

Other than a fuzzy recollection of my red yarn hair, I don't remember much about the parade itself. What I do remember, though, happened four days later.

The Gazette ran photos of the parade and there on the front page, as big as could be, was my sister's smiling face. As a competitive, know-it-all boy, about to turn 7, I must have leafed through the paper a dozen times searching for a photo of myself, each time to no avail.

I have to concede that it was a great shot of my sister, but I still believe there must have been some sort of mix-up at the press.

Our first parade garnered us an award and a photo on the front page of the paper. We were hooked, and a family tradition began that continues today.

Rick and Sarah Mello
In 1982, my sister Sarah and I flew in from Neverland for the parade.

Floating through the years

When I asked what persuaded him to be part of the parade that very first time, my dad told me, "I'm not quite sure, but what kept me coming back was the look on your faces (referring to my sister and I)."

Returning the following year, Sarah and I were dressed as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. We rode in the back of the same truck, my mom and dad once again passengers, my uncle Tommy driving and other family and friends along for the ride. And so it went for almost a decade. Sometimes we were in costume, and sometimes not, but we were always having fun.

In 1989 my parents opened up a small video store alongside their convenience store in the Edgartown Texaco building. The following summer they decided to start using movie themes for their parade floats and my dad took the floats themselves to a new level.

That summer of 1990 coincided with the video release of Ghostbusters 2 and armed with promotional materials, creative mastery and a beat up station wagon, my dad proceeded to recreate Ecto 1, the Ghostbusters' car.

The following year he got our whole immediate family involved, and the four of us became the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My parents, with only the help of store-bought turtle masks, created four very good renditions of the amphibious heroes from scratch.

Jeff Enos with Rick and Sharon Mello
The Caped Crusader, Jeff Enos, poses with villains Catwoman, Sharon Mello, and The Joker, Rick Mello Jr.

In 1992, my dad created his best float to date, an incredibly accurate replica of the Batmobile from Tim Burton's version of the movie. The car along with Batman, Catwoman and the Joker made their way through town that year. The float was extremely popular with kids and parents alike, and won the "Most Original" award that year. The Penguin was added to the cast, and the Dark Knight and crew returned for an encore performance the following year.

In 1996 my parents had to give up the convenience store and video store and move their newly formed screenprinting business to their home. The move out of Edgartown, coupled with my sister and me growing older and heading off to college, caused our parade participation to wane a bit. But their enthusiasm continued.

In 2004, my daughter, Emily, and my sister's son, Taylor Trudel, were old enough to ride with us in the parade and my dad wanted to make sure they were a part of it. So after a short hiatus, my family once again piled into a decorated pickup truck, albeit not an antique, and now three generations of my family rode together in the parade. While our kids were younger than my sister and I were when we started, they exhibited that same excitement we had shown as young children. This was not lost on my dad and that "look on their faces" seemed to rekindle a bit of the creative drive within him.

In 2005, on the heels of the JawsFest celebration, he created a huge papier maché shark head on the front of his truck in just the three days prior to the parade. How many three-year-olds get to ride on the back of a great white shark?

Rick Mello Mardi Gras float
Inspired by a recent trip to New Orleans, Rick Mello Jr. stands high atop his Mardi Gras float in 1999.

In 2006, the plan was to create the beaten up, friendly tow truck "Tow Mater" from the animated movie "Cars." Unfortunately, due to a lack of time the float was downgraded to the trusty family pickup.

While I still rode on the floats some years, tossing my share of candy, I essentially had retired as a main character after my stint as Ninja Turtle in high school. But something made me want to be more involved this year: the look in my daughter's face. I guess it's one of those circle of life sort of things.

So, this past winter I sat down with my dad to discuss his plans for the parade. He still wanted to create Mater, but my daughter and I had other ideas, which he heard out. He may have been listening to me, but the jumping up and down excitement of his four-year-old granddaughter was assuredly more influential.

Tommy and Rick Mello
Yabba-Dabba-Doo. Barney Rubble (Tommy Mello) and Fred Flintstone (Rick Mello Jr.) prepare for the parade.

Maybe our best yet

We settled on our plan for this summer and we decided to start early and do it right. The ball was already rolling in January, a much longer head start than we'd ever had before. And a good thing, too, because we needed the extra time.

The cast this year will be composed of, as it always has been, family and friends. We will actually have four generations of my family on the float, as my grandfather, Richard Mello Sr. will be riding alongside my uncle.

Our purpose, as always, will be to have fun and share our excitement with others while we celebrate the 4th. The cheering crowds and the smiling children are all a great part of being in the parade, but being able to do all of this with family is what really makes this a special tradition for us.

Oh, and what of this year's float? All I can say right now is keep a weather eye on the horizon, mates.

Rick Mello is the Times web administrator.