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Stonington - Greg and Abbie Park of Stonington continued a long-standing family tradition Wednesday by walking with their two kids, Robert and Penelope, in the annual Stonington Borough Fourth of July parade.
While gathered around the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club's decorative banner, which signified the club's 10th anniversary, Greg Park discussed the family's history with the parade.
"Robert and Penelope have been walking with us every year since birth," he said with his toddler Robert sitting on his shoulders. "The banner was a great afternoon activity for the kids to work on."
The yacht club's commodore, Charlie Hatton, said he enjoys having the opportunity to have the club participate in such a community event every year.
"Our club is about 300 members strong, most of them local. So, I think we're a pretty big force in the community," he said. "The great thing about the parade is that, while most places just let you watch the parade, Stonington lets you be in it."
The informal march of about 100 people began and ended at the Stonington Free Library on Wadawanuck Square. Some were dressed in red, white and blue and waved small flags. Two bagpipers and the Stonington Kazoo band provided the music while a contingent of firetrucks followed the marchers.
While waiting for the parade to loop around Cannon Square and return, Bill Cutler of Mystic began passing out pamphlet copies of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution as a public service on behalf of the Stonington Republican Town Committee.
The annual reading of the Declaration was then held in front of the library following the parade. Presiding over the reading was David Purvis, the president of the Stonington Historical Society.
"In recent years, in observance of Independence Day, we have chosen a theme that relates to something fundamental to the United States of America, past, present and future," he said. "Our theme this year relates to veterans of America's armed services, the wonderful people in our community who have served in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force or the Coast Guard to protect this nation and its independence in times of war and in times of peace. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our veterans."
In light of this year's theme, the declaration was read in parts by Sgt. Steven Bessette of Pawcatuck, an Iraq war veteran; Roger Kemper of Pawcatuck, a Navy E-3 seaman who served aboard the USS Tullibee from 1970-1974; Staff Sgt. Brehan Brady of Pawcatuck, another veteran of the Iraq war from the Army National Guard and former Congressman Rob Simmons of Stonington, a veteran of the Vietnam War.
Following the reading, Purvis closed with the traditional chant, started several years ago by Victor Boatwright, the former president of the Stonington Historical Society, by shouting "God save these United States" to which the crowd replied "And a pox on King George!"