Published by The Wave at DelmarvaNow.com
BETHANY BEACH — It might take a village to make the town’s massive Independence Day parade a reality, but for eight years one volunteer has been at the helm.
Parade Chairman Philip Rossi said he didn’t know what he was getting into when former mayor Joseph McHugh approached him on the boardwalk and asked him to head the event for 2004.
“I told him the only thing I know about parades is from marching in the Army,” he said.
While his knowledge of parades was limited, his organizational abilities were not.
Among his many duties, Rossi is charged with raising the $30,000 or more in necessary funding, booking musicians like marching bagpipers and patriotic bands, and signing up incumbent politicians to participate in what Bethany Beach Entertainment Director Gloria Farrar said is easily one of the town’s biggest summer events. The parade is in its 28th year.
This year, Rossi said Sen. Tom Carper and Miss Delaware are only a couple of the VIPs slated to participate.
“(Rossi) lives and breathes the parade — morning, noon and night,” Farrar said. “The town doesn’t pay for the parade per se, but we do supply logistics. The public works guys are out there all day, along with the police and fire departments.”
Having worked on the parade for 11 years herself, she said the event has grown since Rossi took charge. She said he has attracted more bands and successfully booked the Mummers again this year.
Farrar said the decorated bikes are her favorite feature of the parade.
Organizers said upwards of 1,000 decorated bikes ride in the parade, with some of the more extravagant decorations including blow-up Uncle Sam dolls and glitzy carts.
With a 5K parade fundraiser run the week prior, a pie-eating contest and horseshoe competition Monday afternoon, an awards ceremony in the evening and fireworks at dusk, the parade is the centerpiece for the town’s Fourth of July celebrations.
Last year, Rossi said some 145 people signed up for the pie-eating contest. Sponsored by Ruthie’s Bakery for the second year, potential participants can pre-register for the contest at the bakery’s location on Garfield Parkway.
Booking new bands and VIPs to make the event different every year, Rossi said this year’s theme will be the U.S. Constitution, as Delaware was the first state to ratify the founding document.
Sold annually as the main fundraiser for the parade, U.S. Constitution-themed parade T-shirts, designed by local artist Jennifer Carter, are now available on the boardwalk.
The parade’s organizers said little things, like the T-shirts, have become part of many family’s summer traditions.
“People tell me they’ve been in the parade for the last 20 years and a lot of them put a float in every year,” Rossi said. “People always call me and want to know about the parade. They want to plan their vacation around it.”
Now working from his own office space in the Bethany Beach Town Hall, Rossi said he is already forming ideas for next year’s parade and has no plans to quit his job anytime soon.
“Oh yeah, I enjoy it. It’s fun,” he said. “What am I going to do sitting at home anyway?”
Officially, Farrar said work on next year’s parade will begin a week after this year’s parade ends.