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Willimantic, Connecticut: Boom Box Parade

Since 1986, tradition started in the town's marching-band-free Memorial Day parade continues in the July 4th parade. Citizens strut with boom box radios blaring...

Main St., Willimantic, CT
Jillson Square on Main St.
Annually - July 4th parade, 9 am. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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Boom Box Parade

Get there early. The crowds get bigger every year! We went on a whim and have vowed to never miss it. It's a unique and VERY fun way to spend some time on the Fourth!

[Rory, 07/03/2012]

Part of our 1980s cultural heritage, alive and well on the streets of Connecticut.

Frog character in the Boom Box Parade.

Boom Box Parade - Background

I grew up in Willimantic, and know the whole story of the Annual Boom Box parade.

In 1986 when a local resident heard that there would be no parade that year because the high school had no marching band. She went to the local AM radio station, talked them into broadcasting a couple hours' worth of marching band music on July 4th, obtained a parade permit, and rounded up a bunch of friends to dress in red, white, and blue and carry portable "Boom Box" radios with them. Precisely at noon on July 4th they assembled on Main Street, turned on their radios and marched up Main Street to the accompaniment of the AM station.

This has since grown into an annual event. Radio station sportscaster Wayne Norman is the Grand Marshall every year; he dresses in an odd costume of some sort or pulls off some stunt. The year the University of Connecticut Huskies won the NCAA basketball trophy, he got a friend to strap a basket to his back and walk ahead of him, while Norman threw baskets as he walked; Norman also pulled a wagon with the UConn Huskies mascot behind him.

It's reached the point where you almost have more people in the parade where you do watching it. You see a lot of little kids on bikes, families who have decorated their pickup trucks, and the like marching right alongside the Society for Creative Anachronism and gay and lesbian groups. And everyone in the parade and everyone watching has their radios with them, all tuned into the local AM station, which is supplying the music over the air. Often, you will also get a bunch of guys calling themselves "The Latin Toyota Club", which are just guys with souped-up cars playing the Spanish-language station instead, but their welcome in the parade is just as big as it is for the kids on bikes.

The Parade has absolutely no pre-registration requirements. So theoretically, travelers to the area could BE in a parade instead of just watching; all you have to do to be in it is show up at the local movie theater parking lot about 20 minutes before the parade starts. You'll win over the crowd better if you have some sort of costume or wacky theme, but if you just show up with a red t-shirt you're in.

[Kim Wadsworth, 08/27/2000]
Boom Box Parade

The Boom Box Parade (July Fourth, I believe) where the "working girls" from the Hotel Hooker (no joke) as well as all sorts of townspeople parade proudly through the (depressed but upbeat) streets to the sounds of marches etc. on boomboxes.

[Alison Stratton, 05/17/1997]

Nearby Offbeat Places

Giant Frogs on Thread SpoolsGiant Frogs on Thread Spools, Willimantic, CT - < 1 mi.
Museum of PuppetryMuseum of Puppetry, Storrs, CT - 6 mi.
D'Elia Antique Tool MuseumD'Elia Antique Tool Museum, Scotland, CT - 7 mi.
In the region:
1964 World's Fair General Foods Arch, Warwick, RI - 44 mi.

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