Petersham Fourth of July parade back in full swing

  • One-year-old Weston Adams was part of the Petersham Congregational Church's contingent in the July Fourth parade. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

  • Horses and American flags are a tradition in the Petersham parade. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

  • Drew Paton, left, and Dough MacLeod took to the gazebo on Petersham Common to entertain folks who showed up for the town's Fourth of July parade. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

  • The color guard prepares to step off in the lead of Petersham's Fourth of July parade. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

  • Aaron Saunders, Democratic candidate for state representative from the 7th Hampden district, speaking with former Petersham Selectboard member Henry Woolsey. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

  • Grand Marshall Ernie Richards, 97, enjoyed his trip along the parade route in the back seat of a classic convertible. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

  • Chip Harrington, right, Republican candidate for state representative from the 7th Hampden district, speaks with Petersham voters. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 7/5/2022 9:37:01 AM
Modified: 7/5/2022 9:37:33 AM

PETERSHAM — Following a lengthy hiatus due the COVID-19 pandemic, Petersham’s Fourth of July parade returned this year to the delight of onlookers. The procession stepped off at 10 a.m., accompanied by a few thin, wispy clouds, a pleasant breeze, and the affection of those who had missed the traditional celebration for the past two years.

The lead organizer of the parade, Sue Dougherty, moved to Petersham from Texas just last summer, but she told the Athol Daily News that she was thrust in the leadership role due to the home she chose to purchase — the home that had been the residence of Beth Cummings, who first organized the parade 25 years ago.

“When I first moved here,” she said with a smile, “I was told if I was going to live in that house, I’d better be ready to be actively involved in organizing the parade. So, here I am — and it’s been great.”

Asked if it was a challenge getting the parade organized following its two-year absence, Dougherty said, “Actually, it’s been pretty easy because this town runs parades a lot, so it almost ran itself. And the organizing committee, the long-time residents, they knew everybody to call. The police chief said, ‘No problem. I can provide the support to block off the traffic.’ We were a little bit worried about that. But otherwise, everybody just knows what to do. It’s pretty cool.”

Looking ahead to 2023, Dougherty said, “What we want to do is make it bigger. So, I’m looking for bands, drummers, more horses, that kind of thing. I love a parade and I love bands especially. So, next year we’re going to try to make it a little bigger. This is a ‘breathing year’ because we’re just coming out of that hiatus, and so we’re just hoping to build on our experiences from this year.”

And what Fourth of July parade would be complete without politics? Republican James “Chip” Harrington and Democrat Aaron Saunders, candidates for state representative from the 7th Hampden district, pressed the flesh and discussed issues with voters. A group of politically active residents also held signs addressing several issues and urging folks to vote.

Asked why it was so important for her voice and that of her associates to be heard on this July Fourth, Sarah Selden-Bush said, “I think we live in a world that is sadly losing touch with what I think is important, so anybody who take the time to get off their couch and come out and stand up for what they believe in — and do it in a peaceful and respectful way — is something I support and I happy to be part of that.”

Selden-Bush said her “hug a tree” sign “is one of many signs I chose, but to me it just represents nature and the fact that we have to pay attention to nature. Nature is announcing itself in the form of climate change and trying to focus us humans on it. I think it’s a huge responsibility.”

Her mother, Stephanie Selden, said recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, especially regarding reproductive rights and environmental protection, has her thinking about the future.

“Protecting our rights has really been at the top of our minds,” she said. “I have nine grandkids, so I think about the world they’re going to be operating in.”

Whether looking for votes, promoting a cause, or simply enjoying a beautiful morning on Petersham Common, well over 100 people watched as the parade made its circuitous route, which eventually led past Town Hall and ended at the Common. Near the head of the parade was Grand Marshall Ernie Richards. Richards, a World War II veteran, holds the Boston Post for being the town’s oldest resident at the age of 97.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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