The 30th annual WILI July 4th “BOOM BOX PARADE” begins at 11:00 a.m. at Jillson Square in Downtown Willimantic, Connecticut. IT’S THE LARGEST PARADE OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD!!
In 1986, no marching band could be found for Windham’s Memorial Day Parade. Five weeks later, the “Boom Box Parade” concept was born, as WILI-AM radio played the marching band music on the air, while thousands marched and watched, loudly playing their radios (boom boxes).
Anyone can march or enter a float in “Connecticut’s Unique People’s Parade.” The only requirement is to wear some red, white, and blue, and bring a radio tuned to WILI (1400-AM). American flags are optional, but encouraged. There is no “official” theme for the parade.
Formation for the Boom Box Parade starts at Jillson Square on Main Street around 9:00 on July 4th. No pre-registration is necessary. The parade runs seven tenths of a mile west on Main Street to Memorial Park. Safety guidelines include no water spraying, no throwing candy (but candy can be handed out), and no reckless operator behavior.
The parades are always led by Grand Marshal Wayne Norman–WILI’s morning man since 1970, who has had an usual assortment of costumes including a patriotic butterfly (2013) , and a “Frog of Windham” (2012), joined by WILI’s ceramic “Frogcaster.” He started the 2011 parade in a UConn men’s basketball uniform to honor the NCAA champs, and marched with Windham High School’s state champion girls basketball team. In 2010 he wore a cap and gown, campaigning (unsuccessfully) to be the next UConn president. In 2007 he celebrated WILI’s 50th anniversary with a 1950’s look. In 2006 he was dressed as the “King of Willimantic,” sitting atop a huge Boom Box. In 2005 he paddled a kayak with red hair, wearing the uniform of the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox. In prior years he has ridden an adult tricycle, a go-cart, a motorcycle, and in 1998 pulled the world’s largest boom box while rollerblading. Norman stresses that everyone bring a Boom Box. “The parade doesn’t work if you don’t bring a radio,” he says. “No Boom Box? No problem! Just bring any radio and turn it up!”
Past parade marchers have included a “baby boomers unit” (parents pushing children in strollers); a “precision drill team” (marchers holding power drills); skateboard units, along with various decorated floats and marching youth and civic groups. Among the most popular annual entries are the “Traveling Fish Head Club of Northeast Connecticut”, “Haggerosa,”–nearly 100 members of Willimantic’s Haggerty family, whose units have spanned three blocks–and the Willimantic Brewing Company’s creative floats.
For more parade information and photos, log onto www.wili.com/am, call Wayne Norman at 860-456-1111, or email Wayne@wili.com .