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War veterans, music, American flags: Western Mass. celebrates July 4th with pomp and parades

Thousands of people turned out for East Longmeadow's annual 4th of July parade, and more than 1,000 participated in the event — on foot, on floats and in antique cars. Among them were veterans of war and active military, girl scout troops, little league teams and several marching bands.

For resident Karen Amato, this was her first time ever at the annual celebration.

"We just moved here last year," Amato said, "and we heard that East Longmeadow is the epicenter for the Fourth of July, which is absolutely true!"

Amato said it's a good day to think about how much the U.S. has to offer, despite current politics.

"There's still much to be grateful for, and just to remember ... how far we've all come and the United States started wanting for the good for all and we need to move forward in that direction," she said.

Resident Dick Manning knew a lot of people sitting around him and many who were marching in the town's annual event.

Manning said he has lived in East Longmeadow his entire life. And while the day is fun and social, he said, it's also important to show up at the parade to support the military and others who are marching.

"People, they forget about all this stuff, why we're here ... like they say, freedom isn't free. A lot of people don't know that, especially the younger people," he said.

Among the politicians walking in the parade were U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and state Sen. Jake Oliveira, D-Ludlow.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno marched in the parade before heading back to Springfield for the city's 4th of July festivities at Riverfront Park — culminating with fireworks scheduled to go off at 9:30 p.m.

The Springfield Armory postponed its 4th of July musket firing demonstration due to short staffing, but still had an in-depth presentation about 20th century firearms.

Attendee Janet Robinson said her husband is in the U.S. Navy and thought the presentation was a great experience for her kids to learn about what their father experiences at work.

"We really try to give them an idea of why we're recreating this. Fireworks are pretty, but when your dad is out in the middle of the sea and he's being fired upon, this is the kind of noise that he's hearing," she said.

The armory's education specialist, Scott Gausen, said it's an important place in American history.

"This facility was was essentially manufacturing and designing the U.S. Army's small arms, basically from the War of 1812 until it closed in 1968. It's an American institution. You know, it's an important place," he said.

Springfield Armory officials said they have rescheduled the musket firing demonstration for Saturday.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.