Josh Cooper | Staff Writer
Near the beginning of every Chautauqua summer, the sounds of children belting out patriotic tunes fill the air as the highly anticipated Children’s School Independence Day parade marches through the grounds. This year will be no exception.
Today at 10 a.m., the children of Children’s School, along with Group 1 and Group 2 from Boys’ and Girls’ Club, will leave the Children’s School building, march down Pratt Avenue, stop at the Colonnade to sing several songs and proceed to the Amphitheater for a bit more singing.
This year, a truck from the Chautauqua Fire Department will lead the parade. More than 100 children are expected to participate, and in years past, the spectators crowding Bestor Plaza have numbered almost 1,000.
The parade is usually not held on July 4 because many of the children attend Children’s School for only one week; having the parade late in the week allows the children more time to prepare. The children spend Week One learning the patriotic songs and making banners, special hats, vests and other apparel.
Children’s School Director Kit Trapasso said the kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from the parade; the adults in attendance enjoy the event, too.
“Parents simply love it,” Trapasso said. “Parents, grandparents and friends will be lining the streets cheering on the children, waving flags and making lots of noise.”
Gwen Papania, assistant director of the Department of Recreation and Youth Services, said it’s sometimes a struggle to curb the enthusiasm of the parents.
“I have to be out there acting as the ‘queen of yellow caution tape’ doing crowd control,” Papania said. “The struggle is not controlling the kids, but controlling the families.”
Papania said some fancy logistics are involved in getting the kids on and off the Amphitheater stage on time.
“We have to get them onstage right after the church service at 9:15 (a.m.), and we have to herd them off the stage just before the morning lecture,” Papania said. “So if the speaker in the morning is a lengthy gabber, it gets a little tight.”
“Once the parade is over, I do a big sigh of relief,” Papania said. “After that, we can really settle in and get to work on the rest of the season.”