Hats on to you, Del Ray


If ever there was a typical Del Ray Parade, it was the Del Ray Centennial Hat Parade held on May 3.

While most Del Ray parades use the AvenueMount Vernonthis one followed an AvenueCommonwealththat started life as a streetcar track and was largely responsible for the commuter neighborhood that would become todays Del Ray.

As residents along Commonwealth were pulling up chairs or a piece of curb to watch the hometown parade go by, a woman asked how often the Centennial parade was held. Hearing that it is every hundred years, she paused briefly before announcing Im going to miss the next one.

The stated theme of the parade was hats. Lonnie Rich, the Man in the Ice Cream Suit, was the picture of a southern country lawyer. With his white straw hat cocked rakishly over one eye, when Mr. Rich was asked which era his hat represented, he promptly responded Bygone.

The small TC Williams band, numbers decimated by SATs scheduled for the same morning, arrived at the Cliff Street staging area just in time to join the parade, having mistakenly gone first to Clifford Avenue.

As is traditional with Del Ray parades, the line between observers and participants was so blurry as to be indistinguishable. At one point the parade stopped for a photographer to talk with one of the Grand Marshals, and Mayor Bill Euille veered off course for a quick chat with an onlooker.

Council Member Del Pepper and School Board Member Cheryl Gorsuch in stylish straw hats carried the banner for City and Elected Officials Past and Present. The banner was especially appropriate for Vice Mayor Pepper who has served on City Council continuously for nearly thirty years. Behind them, State Delegates David Englin and Adam Ebbin wore matching railroad caps. Council member Justin Wilsons hat seemed timelessand vaguely western.

A sign proclaiming her Our Heart and Soul preceded the car carrying Judy Lowe, and Tina Richardson, who drove Kenny HarSpecial- rison, the Oldest Kid on the Block, coincidentally had recently completed his oral history for the citys archives. Mr. Harrison has lived in the same East Windsor house for all of his 67 years.

With son Owen, DeWitt Avenue sage Jim Ward strode the Avenue in an Indian headdress, and fourth grader Alex Heimberg, in a paper bag hat that looked remarkably like the Mad Hatters, rode his scooter the length of the route.

Del Ray Citizens Association president Larry Altenburg and his engineer, David Fromm, manned the locomotive float that regularly belched clouds of white smoke.

US Congressman Jim Moran, in jeans and a work shirt blended with friends and former neighbors as he marched with present and former Del Ray Citizens Association board members. Pat Miller, unofficial mayor of Del Ray also sported a railroaders hat.

Toward the end of the parade one bewildered onlooker said to her companion, Its hard to tell who is in the parade and who isnt, a moment before joining the parade with her dog.

Perhaps the most understated sign was for Nora Partlow, whose St. Elmos Coffee Pub is often credited as being the turning point for Del Rays fortunes. Her sign said Believed in the Avenue.

It seems that she had something.

Although the stated theme of the parade was hats, it was the enduring theme of community that shone through.