Thea Digiammerino

‘Boom Box Parade': Unique July Fourth Tradition in Willimantic

A unique kind of Independence Day parade was underway in Willimantic on Wednesday. All participants were encouraged to wear their patriotic red, white and blue and to bring a radio for the 33rd Annual Boom Box Parade.

"It's the best parade ever," said Thea Gonci of Windham.

The parade has an interesting history. In 1986, the yearly Fourth of July parade almost didn't happen because there was no marching band to perform. In response, the local AM radio station decided to broadcast a couple hours’ worth of marching band music, which parade marchers then blasted out from their boom boxes.

"Everybody just started walking with the bomb boxes and now it's a tradition and we love it," said Gonci.

The tradition is still growing. Kelsey Donovan of Coventry came to the parade as a child and now she brings her own children.

"I had great memories and I wanted to bring my kids and have memories with them," Donovan said.

"Just memories, you know, of us going out to the Boom Box Parade and having a good time on the Fourth," said Ryan Millbury of Windham.

If there is anything that has changed over the years, it is the number of boom boxes booming that patriotic music.

"There's not a whole lot of bomb boxes around anymore so if you can find one, bring it out, but it's always a good time," Millbury said.

A bunch of boom boxes or not, the crowds will likely keep coming back.

"It seems like it just gets bigger every year," Donovan said.

As usual, WILI-AM broadcast the marching band music in place of marching bands.

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