We made it to Hoosick Falls minutes before they closed the road for the parade.
Here in #ruralamerica Bernie was parked next to Trump/Pence. If this doesn’t explain #election2016🇺🇸 I don’t know what does. In my heart of hearts I still believe this was the election we should have had. #ifonly
It was cold crossing the bridge over the Hoosick River. We bent into the wind. The river was rougher than the last time we were here. A whirlpool of turbulent water spun beneath us. My cheeks were stinging.
Families carried coolers and small children wrapped in blankets. Most everyone was wearing green – hats, leprechaun vests, Mardi Gras beads.
We crossed to the sunny side of the street and found a spot out of the wind. Kevin, the member of the village board who had invited me to the parade, was busy at the church lining up the floats.
The parade began with six veterans carrying flags. They represented WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a memorial in the center of town on Main Street. For a small town the names on the wall are impressive. Hoosick Falls has sent many of its sons and daughters to fight America’s wars.
Everyone in the parade threw candy. Bubblegum, lollipops, and chocolate came flying off of floats or out of deep pockets. Two little boys next to us scurried off the sidewalk to grab as much as they could.
“Where are you two putting all that loot?” Rich asked.
“Right here,” their Dad said from behind us. He was leaning against the wall of an historic building and was wearing a hunting jacket with numerous deep pockets.
It was when the Section 2 Class Champion Wrestling Team rolled by that I started to feel the tug of my heartstrings. The wistful reminder of parades I’ve attended or marched in.
Growing up in Warwick, RI in the Gaspee Plateau neighborhood where a band of patriots sank the British ship the Gaspee in 1772, each year I looked forward to the annual parade.
Years later my brother-in-law and nephews marched with the Pawtuxet Rangers fife and drum corp. They spent the weekend sleeping at an authentic revolutionary encampment in the village park along the Narraganett Bay. I brought my kids back to my hometown for several Gaspee Day parades and like the little boys standing next to us my daughters filled their pockets with candy.
Kevin from the Village Board told me times were difficult here in Hoosick Falls since the discovery of PFOA in the water. Understandably so. Health, home values, and the local economy would be a few of the concerns for anyone living in small town America.
We walked along the parade route toward Immaculate Conception Church where Kevin told me I could find him. A young girl watched the parade from the warmth of her living room. She waved. I lifted my phone and gestured that I’d like to take her picture. She nodded and gave me a smile.
Brian was the first resident in Hoosick Falls to reach out to me. He works for the school district and is joining the village board this spring. He told me he grew up here and moved away for a long time, but came back.
“I have a lot of pride in Hoosick Falls, ” he said. “If I don’t say so myself, our school district is excellent. We have a beautiful Greenway along the river and the water is safe to drink now – actually, despite the well field being polluted, the filtration system is providing residents with excellent water now. We will have a new water source at some point too.”
The last time I was in Hoosick Falls it was a quiet, sleepy day. Brian encouraged me to come back to see the great things going on in town.
“You may be quite impressed by the spirit of the people here!”
And he was right. I was.
Kevin invited us to the parade after party held in the basement of the Immaculate Conception Church.
Despite the bitter cold, the town braved the weather and now they were celebrating with hot chocolate and Guiness in tall black cans. For two dollars Rich and I had a hot dog, chips, and pickles.
We found a spot by the side of the dance floor. The band included fiddles, banjos and a washboard. I was captivated by two little girls who reminded me of my own daughters.
One girl was wearing what looked like a hand knit sweater and green pants. She was ready to party and while waiting for the music to begin she twirled around a pole.
The younger girl was shy. She wore a green dress and pink boots. She tapped her foot and watched the girl in the sweater. The music began and a group of older girls dressed in costume began to step dance.
I’ve been feeling low and overwhelmed in these difficult days since January 20th. We thought about not coming. When we left the house it was five degrees on Higley Hill.
But we put on our long johns, grabbed our hats and mittens, and bundled up.
If you are also feeling discouraged and frightened I highly suggest getting in the car and going for a drive to look for America. If you think we can survive without an EPA visit one of the 94 towns in 27 states that were effected by #PFOA in their water. There could be more. The numbers I found were from August 20, 2015 at http://www.ewg.org.
As Arlene Blum, the executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute told the NY Times. “I think when people look they’re going to find it.” Bennington, VT found it after this list was posted.
These towns are our towns. They need our support. We need to stand together, speak up, and most importantly get to know each other. If we knew each other better we might not be where we are today.
And by all means, if you’re traveling through upstate New York stop in Hoosick Falls. They have a fantastic local brew pub, Brown’s Brewing Company. Grandma Moses once lived and painted in this area. You can learn more at the Hoosick Township Historical Society or visit the Bennington Museum just over the Vermont border. There is also the the Hoosick Barn Quilt Trail, a community-wide celebration of art, music, and rural culture in Hoosick. As you drive around the area look for 31 quilt patterns hung on barns and buildings throughout the town.
*** I am now sharing Stories From Higley Hill on my Instagram account. The link is along the left with all the other widgets that bring you to places you can find me. I am having fun with the idea of words and pictures. From time to time I will share them here, too. Check it out and join me if you’re on Instagram, too. Let me know you found my blog and I’ll follow you back.***