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300 reasons for a parade in Schoharie (with photo gallery)

Valley, now dry, marks tricentennial

Monday, September 10, 2012
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The Cobleskill Fire Department marching in the Schoharie 300th Anniversary Grand Parade down Main Street on Sunday, September 9, 2012.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
The Cobleskill Fire Department marching in the Schoharie 300th Anniversary Grand Parade down Main Street on Sunday, September 9, 2012.

— Dozens of parents allowed their children to eat candy off the street in the Village of Schoharie Sunday afternoon, which can only mean one thing: a parade.

Residents from all over the region came out in force to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Schoharie Valley’s 1712 settlement.

Scores of lawn chairs lined main street. Children collected Tootsie Rolls. Parents clapped along with patriotic tunes blasted from the olive drab loudspeakers of World War II era military vehicles. But it was a historical event, so there were plenty of tri-corner hats and replica flintlock muskets as well.

“It took seven months to plan,” said Robin Myers, who worked with the Schoharie Promotional Association to organize the event, “and that wasn’t long enough.”

The goal was to equal or surpass the village’s 250th anniversary celebration, which Myers barely remembers from her childhood.

“Governor Rockefeller showed up to that one,” she said, “but I was just a little girl.”

Despite the lack of Rockefellers, the packed sidewalks of Main Street and miles of parade floats spoke to the promotional association’s success.

But while the event was meant to commemorate all 300 years of Schoharie history, the parade seemed to focus on the last 12 months.

“During the flood, people came from all over to help,” said Glen Sposato as he turned chicken halves over an industrial-sized charcoal grill. “They got to know the community, and I think this event is bringing them back.”

The parade itself, while punctuated by slaloming unicyclists and floats, even an Elvis impersonator, was mostly firetrucks.

In all, more than 30 stations were represented, many of which brought engines from hundreds of miles away.

“I brought nine departments from Erie County,” said Deputy Fire Coordinator Tiger Schmittendorf as he ate an ice cream cone. For the geographically minded reader, that’s a 250-mile drive.

There were so many engines that to the casual observer the village may have looked like a disaster zone, which isn’t actually that far off.

A year ago, when tropical storms Irene and Lee swept through the Schoharie Valley, fire departments from all over the state stepped in to help.

“We had 18 units and 150 firefighters here back in Irene,” Schmittendorf said. “We’ve been in contact ever sense.”

With the worst of it behind the village, every fire department was invited back to join the celebration. Some didn’t come back empty-handed.

Since last year’s disaster, Erie County fire departments have been selling commemorative T-shirts, and over the weekend they presented a $2,000 check to the village to help continue the rebuilding effort.

“We formed a tremendous bond,” he said. “This little fire department here was heroic.”

Last year, those and many more fire and emergency response vehicles rolled into the area to work in the mud. Sunday, every engine had a mirror polish.

When the Schoharie Fire Department finished the parade, blasting their sirens through the first spatters of rain, it was in celebration, not warning.

The crowd clapped, then picked up their chairs in a rush to shelter.

“I’m going to hit the road,” said Elvis impersonator Bill McGrath as he coiled his microphone cable and jumped down from the flatbed truck. “It’s going to rain like hell.”

 
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