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Essex Ed’s Time to Shine

By Jen Matteis

Publication: Shore Publishing

Published January 16. 2013 4:00AM
35th Annual Essex Ed Parade Jan. 27

ESSEX - Have a desire to parade up and down Main Street Essex wearing a groundhog hat and banging pots and pans together? If you can wait until Sunday, Jan. 27, you'll be in good company when Essex Ed will lead firefighters, residents, visitors, and revelers of all types from the base of Ferry Road to the top of Main Street.

This year is the event's 35th anniversary, according to Jim D'Alessio, president of the Essex Board of Trade (BOT). A group of residents came up with the idea for the parade in what had been Tumbledown's, today the Black Seal. Former Griswold Inn owner Bill Winterer expanded upon the idea, which for the past couple of years has been coordinated by the BOT.

"It was a way for Essex residents to break the winter doldrums of the cold and in preparation of spring," said D'Alessio.

Part of the appeal of the Essex Ed Parade is its mystery-each year, the BOT Board of Directors chooses a theme for the giant, fiberglass-and-foam groundhog. The theme can center around a local organization celebrating a milestone, an anniversary, or any other major event.

Several years ago, Ed was Elvis to celebrate what would have been Elvis's 75th birthday; last year he dressed up as the captain of the Titanic to match Valley Regional High School's musical, TITANIC. He's also been a Beatle in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America. Ed's costume is, as always, a secret (though this year's will be a "big hit").

"We can't even tell anyone what he looks like yet," said Robin Andreoli of the Community Music School, who is helping coordinate this year's event. "That will be unveiled at the start of the parade."

The Essex Fire Department, elected town officials, the Sailing Masters of 1812, and antique cars from the Belltown Antique Car Club and the Essex Automobile Club round out the procession. One contingent, the Long Island Clam Shuckers, comes to town each year specifically for the parade, staying at the Gris. The parade will also have a yet-to-be-named grand marshal.

"We just all hope for a great day," said D'Alessio. "It is a rain-or-shine event, but we pray for shine."

Unlike most events, Essex's quintessential parade encourages noises and disorganization. Kazoos, groundhog hats, and pots and pans are widely encouraged.

"We certainly encourage all of our visitors and residents to come out with their pots and pans and noisemakers to be a part of it," said Andreoli. "All the residents and visitors who want to march along will make up the tail end of the parade behind Essex Ed."

If the attempts to wake up (or chase away?) the groundhog don't defeat the cold, warm up with cupcakes and cocoa offered by the Community Music School. The school will also hand out kazoos to anyone who needs one.

"It's so uniquely Essex," Andreoli said. "It's the type of event that once we set the date, all of the groups that have been invited in the past come forward with very little coaxing. People love to do it."

From the town's help prepping the area where Ed goes on display to the Boat Works cooperation at the staging point, the parade is a true community effort.

"It's such a tradition here. It's really something," Andreoli said. "The point is to make noise."

The Essex Ed Parade is on Sunday, Jan. 27, starting at
2 p.m. from Essex Boat Works at the foot of Ferry Road to the top of Main Street.