Cumberland's Arnold Mills parade steps off at 11 a.m.

Cumberland's Arnold Mills parade steps off at 11 a.m.

CUMBERLAND - Banners line Nate Whipple Highway, the road race finish line has been painted and trash barrels are on their way in the little village of Arnold Mills that, for the 87th time next Thursday, will stage its Fourth of July parade.

Thousands are expected to find parking spots on neighborhood side streets then make their way to the highway named for the famous fire chief.

Marchers step off at 11 a.m. for the hour-plus spectacle that's a mix of professional musicians and homemade floats, decorated bikes and tractors with wheels that are taller than many onlookers.

Participants will gather near the Massachusetts line of Nate Whipple Highway, then head west for about a mile to the Lafayette Lodge where the parade disbands.

Early birds will see the 9 a.m. road race and those who stick around later may enjoy the NightLife band on the lawn of the Arnold Mills United Methodist Church.

Fireworks are planned at Tucker Field on July 3 around dusk, following two hours of family games and the Great Ball Drop.

And the town's first-ever Red, White and Blue Music Festival will be staged 2 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, at the town's Heritage Park on Broad Street, next to Town Hall.

But it's the parade, of course, that's the celebration centerpiece.

New this year, says parade Vice President Joyce Fox, is the Worcester Sound and Lights band organ, which with 600 pipes is said to be the equivalent of a 70-piece marching band.

In addition, plenty of favorites are returning, she said, including the Hills Mill Clowns out of New Bedford, the Cycling Murrays, the Cumberland-Lincoln Chorus, and Club Lusitana band.

The theme this year, "We the People," is expected to be reflected in the floats.

Honorary grand marshal is the late Ronnie Heffernan, florist and community benefactor, who passed away this spring. Look for a lead car that contains his photograph, says Fox.

First organized as a fundraiser for the North Cumberland Fire Department, the parade today relies on donations to the bucket brigade and volunteers will be passing among the crowd near the start.

Expenses, mostly for the bands, total some $30,000 each year, committee members remind onlookers.

Look for a half-dozen militia groups to remind the crowd of America's founding, from the Rehoboth Minute Men to His Majesty's 5th Walking Artillery, the Buxton Fife & Drum, the Glocester Light Infantry and Battery B.

The bagpiper Michael Capone of Cumberland is returning this year, and so is the Triboro Blue Grass Gospel Jam also out of Cumberland.

The Rehoboth Antique Tractor Club is sending over those giant farm tractors, while a variety of floats are expected as well.

Kids are invited to meet at the parade's start around 9:30 a.m. to decorate bikes using supplies donated by the parade committee.

Arnold Mills Fourth of July Committee members, in addition to Fox are:

Joyce Hindle Koutsogiane, president; William Dennen, treasurer; Richard Sokolosk, secretary and assistant treasurer; Tom Kenwood, road race chairman; J. Richard Charland, fundraising; Mike Tusoni, publicity; James Conway, bucket brigade.

Also, Lou Defusco, past president; Debbie and Mark Dosdourian, special events; Susan Sokoloski, board member.

Marshals are Kathy Dennen, Donald Fox and Gene Dennen.

Judges are Carol Waddington, Charleen Baer and Donna Pratt.

Police Chief John Desmarais is an ex-officio member.