Michael McCormic, Jr.
RIDGEFIELD — For the city of Ridgefield, Tuesday could not have been a more perfect Independence Day. Without a cloud in sight, residents and travelers alike enjoyed the big-time celebration within a small-town setting.
Festivities began bright and early at 7 a.m. with a pancake feed by the Firefighter’s Association, a nonprofit that benefits local fire protection services. At 8 a.m., 5k and 10k fun runs attracted local athletes and others to the festival.
The main event, however, is the Ridgefield Fourth of July Parade, which never fails to attract one of the largest crowds of any Independence Day celebration in the area. Beginning at 11 a.m., the parade was kicked off with a fly-over by two F-15 jets. The parade’s theme this year was “Wild, Wild West,” a colorful and community-oriented display that lasted for an hour and 20 minutes.
According to Sandy Schill, the festival director and wife of Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow, one of the many special features of this years parade was the grand marshal, Rick Morris, whose involvement in the parade was a bit different this year than it has in previous years.
“He flew the fly over that we had 2002 to 2012, so it was nice that he was on the ground today. He got to experience the fly-over that came over him,” explains Schill, also noting that one of the pilots from this year’s fly-over is a member of the Ridgefield community, as well.
Following the parade, the crowds migrated to the Ridgefield Refuge Overlook Park, where plenty of entertainment awaited for both children and adults. A reptile tent with live snakes and lizards drew in some of the more adventurous children, and inflatable bounce houses seemed to suffice for those who were not too keen on making some cold-blooded friends. Meanwhile, food vendors set up shop along Main Street, local restaurant Buckets debuted their new dine-in seating area, and live entertainment was provided by none other than local celebrity Tony Starlight.
Band in tow, Starlight’s variety show featured old, new, slow, fast, somber, and comical songs.
“On this show here, I’m kind of singing everything from Sinatra era through some 80s songs. When I do my shows, it’s a music and comedy show,” says Starlight.. “There’s skits and routines and song parodies.”
Perhaps the highlight of his two-hour performance was the moment in which Starlight stepped off the stage while singing Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and approached a young man with the microphone. After some coaxing, Starlight was able to convince the shy audience member to sing along.
“His dad was like, ‘he can sing, he can sing!’’ Starlight recalls, somewhat surprised that somebody of the younger generation recognized the song. “I put the microphone on him and he’s singing ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’ A young guy!”
Following Starlight’s show, the main stage quickly became the venue for a local favorite event: the pie-eating contest at 2:30 p.m.. An event open to anybody under the age of 18, this contest was anything but a hands on experience. Encouraged to eat as much pie using only their faces, contestants flocked to the competition table to be wrapped in a protective garbage bag before burying their faces in a large cherry pie. While those who ate the most of their pie were declared the winners and awarded with a fresh pie to eat with their hands (perhaps even silverware), the contestants largely agree that there are no losers in a contest involving free pie.
The festival quieted down following the pie-eating contest, the vendors eventually packing up their tents and the crowds thinning out as the day passed. After sunset, however, the hoards returned to the waterfront to witness an incredible fireworks display. According to festival organizers, the city of Ridgefield and the Port of Ridgefield cooperated to host the fireworks show in an effort to diminish the danger of personal firework use in Ridgefield neighborhoods. Regardless of the reason, the display, attracted another large crowd to the Marina and created a perfect ending to a day dedicated to celebrating what makes Ridgefield proud to be American.
“The most important aspect about this festival is the community,” says Sandy Schill. “You’re looking at local Ridgefield residents who came here at one time and said, ‘I love this parade, and I love this town so much I think I want to live here.’ They move here because of what you see on this day. It’s kind of like this every day in Ridgefield!”