New marching orders for parade Marshal Sollitto

Joe Sollitto, waving on the right, marched past the Harbor View in Edgartown's Fourth of July parade last year. To the left of him is Fred B. "Ted" Morgan, who has handed over the reins of the parade to Sollitto, the new marshal. — Photo by Alison Shaw

Being the guy after The Guy isn’t always easy.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out (Pete Carroll after Bill Parcells). Sometimes it does (Bill Belichick after Pete Carroll).

No worries for Joe Sollitto. The Dukes County Superior Court Clerk will step off first on Saturday (note the date has been changed because of a prediction of foul weather) as Grand Marshal of the Island’s grandest event, the Edgartown Fourth of July parade. Mr. Sollitto follows Col. Fred B. (Ted) Morgan Jr., who led the parade as grand marshall for 43 years before passing the torch after the 2012 event.

Mr. Morgan has been interviewed ad infinitum about the parade and its Island significance. He has always been clear that July 4 is Independence Day and the parade is a celebration of freedom.

Last year, the two men worked together in a transition year. It helps that both men are on the same page and that between them they have more than 80 years of parade participation.

Mr. Sollitto has participated in the parade since 1972. Both are members of American Legion Post 186 in Edgartown, the parade sponsor. Did Mr. Sollitto’s long parade involvement help make him Mr. Morgan’s hand-picked successor?

“Absolutely,” the 92-year old World War II  hero said from his Edgartown home last week. “Joe has done a great job on the parade. He’s worked with me over a number of years…and he’s very familiar with what’s going on.”

Mr. Morgan is considering whether to march again this year. “I’m really not sure whether I will,” he said with a chuckle.”Probably, I’ll decide on the day of the parade.”

Last Friday, Mr. Sollitto sat with The Times to talk about the “don’t miss” event and its meaning to the Island. “This will be always be Ted Morgan’s parade,” he said.  “When you think about the Martha’s Vineyard Fourth of July parade, you think Ted Morgan. Ted is one of the few real heroes I’ve met in my life – that any of us will ever meet. He’s very quiet about it. Ted is not one for the spotlight.”

Mr. Sollitto, as his predecessor has, also credited the work of Kristy Rose, assistant to town administrator Pam Dolby.

Well over 1,000 marchers  participate – a significant portion of Island residents. “Well, when you think about it, yes, it could be that 10 percent of the Island marches,” Mr. Sollitto  said. Residents who aren’t marching are lined up four deep on downtown Edgartown streets along the nearly mile and three-quarter parade route.

“People will put together a float or march for a specific cause that’s been helpful to them. Camp Jabberwocky and the Navy Band are perennial favorites,” he said.

Parade planning begins in February. The thought of the Navy Marching Band sitting in standby at Woods Hole on July Fourth is ugly. “The logistics are pretty big. We get with the Steamship Authority, the New Bedford fast ferry and organize buses and vans for transportation. It’s like conducting an orchestra; everyone has to be on the same page,” he said.

But, as an authentic Island event, it can also be a cappella. People show up with a float, ready to go, on parade day. “We encourage people to let us know by this Thursday so we can plan positions,” Mr. Sollitto said. “But, you know, people wake up on July Fourth and decide to participate. We accommodate as best we can.”

In addition to celebrating freedom, the parade has become manna to Island organizations and service agencies who show the flag and raise awareness about their work. Mr. Sollitto understands that value. He marched (and trumpeted) with the MV Boys and Girls club marching band until it disbanded in 1988. “We always saw a bump in donations after the parade,” the Marine Corps veteran said. “We’re asking this year for a patriotic theme on all the floats and we encourage businesses to partner with agencies and service organizations and to sponsor their floats. The agency publicizes its work and the company advertises its business.”

The parade is a boon to Edgartown business. With the support of the Edgartown Board of Trade, there is enough going on to keep visitors busy, literally from dawn to exhaustion, culminating with a fireworks display after dark over Edgartown harbor.

The parade begins at the intersection of West Tisbury Road and Pinehurst Road at 5 pm sharp. It turns right onto Main Street and then  left onto Pease’s Point Way (next to the monument). It follows Pease’s Point Way, makes a right onto Morse Street, a left onto Fuller Street and a right onto Thayer Street. At the end of Thayer Street marchers turn right onto North Water Street. Next it takes a right up Main Street and pauses in front of the reviewing stand in front of the Whaling Church. It continues up Main Street. takes a left onto the West Tisbury Road and finishes at the Edgartown School.

When the bells chime at 5 pm on Saturday, the parade will step off on time. Joe Sollitto will be wearing his tan Marine Corps “Charlie” uniform, Ted Morgan will be in the house, and all will be right.

Note: The parade has officially been postponed until Saturday, July 5, at 5 pm. The fireworks will also go off on Saturday night, at dusk.