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    Wednesday, February 28, 2024

    Essex Ed celebrated for 43rd year

    Essex Ed and members of the Valley/Old Lyme Regional football team greet residents as they march down Main Street. The 43rd Annual Essex Ed Groundhog Day parade was held on Sunday, Jan. 29. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Julia Hutchinson (left) and members of the Essex Board of Trade lead the parade as they turn onto Main Street. The 43rd Annual Essex Ed Groundhog Day parade was held on Sunday, Jan. 29. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Adam Metz (right), the parade’s Grand Marshall, and a teammate sit in the back of a classic Buick as they wave to the crowd. The 43rd Annual Essex Ed Groundhog Day parade was held on Sunday, Jan. 29. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    A sign made by the Essex Library pleads for Essex Ed to wake up as the crowd gathers around the Main Street roundabout. The 43rd Annual Essex Ed Groundhog Day parade was held on Sunday, Jan. 29. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Bob Miorelli (far right) and the Sailing Masters of 1812 play and march down Main Street. The 43rd Annual Essex Ed Groundhog Day parade was held on Sunday, Jan. 29. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Essex ― Everyone knows that if Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania sees his shadow on Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, then the nation is in for six more weeks of winter.

    But what about Essex Ed?

    For the 43rd year, Essex residents gathered along Main Street on Sunday to catch a glimpse of the larger-than-human-sized groundhog statue that rolls through town at the annual Essex Ed Groundhog Day parade. Residents take part in the procession too, banging pots and pans as they march along with the intention of waking up Ed ahead of the big day.

    The event is sponsored by the Essex Board of Trade. President Julia Hutchinson said the board “stages and sponsors numerous events to promote a strong and prosperous community.’

    Resident Mary Ellen Brophy and her friends started the event in 1978. The group grew bored in the cold winter months and wanted to add a bit of fun to the season.

    “It’s just good to see the community come out and have some fun in the cold of winter,” Hutchinson, a resident of more than 20 years, said. She lives in town with her family and comes down with them each year.

    Each year, Ed is dressed in a different costume, with the exact get-up kept secret until the parade begins. A community organization dresses him in a costume that acknowledges a person or special occasion.

    This year, Ed donned a Valley Regional/Old Lyme football jersey, with a football in his paws, to honor the high school team’s appearance in the state championship in coach Hill Gbunblee’s second season at the helm.

    Adam Metz, a senior two-way lineman, was named grand marshal for the parade. Metz was a four-year varsity player for the Warriors and was named First Team All-Pequot Conference for his efforts this season.

    “I don’t really know how I got picked specifically, but it’s me,” the 17-year-old said. “Kinda cool.”

    The Warriors played to a 12-2 record in the 2022 season before falling to Joel Barlow in the Class SS State Championship game.

    Metz said he remembers attending the parade with his family as a kid, and always made sure to be loud with his pots and pans.

    “It means a lot,” Metz said of the event. “It’s a pretty boring time of year. It’s just nice to have something to do.”

    The parade begins at Essex Boatworks on Ferry Street, where Ed is stored and dressed, before it makes the right-hand turn down Main Street.

    Roughly 10 different groups in town, from the football team and the Sailing Masters of 1812 to the fire department and town library, take part in the quarter-mile march. Residents, dressed in groundhog hats and sweatshirts, line the street to cheer and slam their pots and pans together before the parade concludes at the roundabout atop the street.

    Bob Miorelli, a Glastonbury resident and Pennsylvania native, is a member of the Sailing Masters of 1812 based in Essex. He said the group had friends from other corps participating, so they were “dressed in our best groundhog attire,” instead of their formal uniforms.

    Miorelli joined the group in 1986 and has marched in the majority of the parades since. He remembers groups from Long Island used to come over on the ferry for the event, stay the night, and go home the next day, though he hasn’t seem them in a few years.

    “We go up the street and, of course, you go out for a drink afterward,” the fife player said with a chuckle.

    At the center, the football team lifted Ed off his float and placed him on display for all to see.

    That’s where Hutchinson, Metz and Gbunblee briefly addressed the crowd and thanked everyone for their support of the football season and of the event, before the crowd tried to wake up Ed one last time.

    The Sailing Masters of 1812 played one last song to conclude the festivities before everyone parted ways to local shops, bars, or back home.

    k.arnold@theday.com

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