Marching bands booming, cheerleaders performing, softball teams chanting on their parade floats. Crowds are lined with stars and red and white stripes and kids are lined up chanting for candy. It is July 3rd and for nearly 80 years, Gloucester has proudly boasted the Independence Day tradition of the Horribles Parade.
There are many things I’ve loved about my Americorps service year at Backyard Growers; I love spending my days outside in the gardens, my lunch breaks at the beach, seeing new gardeners experience their first crop of the season, and watching gardens bud up throughout the city. But more than the physical spaces I’ve occupied, I appreciate and value the relational spaces that have filled my time at Backyard Growers.
Gloucester is so deeply rooted in its community; an island that has historically endured extreme blizzards and humid summers and tragic losses of community members out at sea. Even though I only live 15 minutes away from Gloucester, there is a palpable difference when I enter the town– there is community woven deep into the streets. And that’s what I felt so deeply as the Backyard Growers (iconic) van meandered through downtown Gloucester at the Fishtown Horribles Parade.
The streets are lined with families, children, dogs, older adults, cousins, and business owners. Flags are waving and candy chants shouting and everyone is smiling at one another as we pass through. Alongside my fellow service members we decided to participate in the 3rd of July parade as a way to showcase our gratitude to the community that gardens with us.
Despite the nearly 95 degree weather, the parade was a celebratory manifestation of how supportive our community is to Backyard Growers. As I listened closer to the shouts of candy, I realized there was an undercurrent of shouts of gratitude. “Thank you for what you do in our community!” “Hey! It’s Backyard Growers! We love you!” “Thank you for what you do in my kid’s school!” “we love gardening with you!” “Hey! They give us gardens!” “My kids love you!” “You do great things for the community!” Every corner we turned, every 500 ft. we scooted, we were greeted with true, authentic applause. Gardeners would stop me and hug me and thank me for helping them garden this year and kids would point and shout out vegetables they love to eat.
The parade lasted over 3 hours, and every minute of it we were genuinely applauded and cheered on. Seeing everyone gathered together and enthusiastic that we are apart of their community is a feeling so grand I struggle to find the words to capture—it is the power of community supported work. Kids flew into the streets to hug us, parents smiled and thanked us, waves flew from the back corners of onlookers. I can’t help but feel like this was a grand summation of my service at Backyard Growers— to have gardeners from the senior center, kids from elementary schools, parents of said kids, gardeners from the public park, and the director of the homeless shelter— being joyfully surrounded by community members so exstatic that we garden together. Gloucester’s community is strong, and it was a joy to wave and smile back to all of my gardening friends this year as we marched in the parade and said thank you back!
written by Mackenzie Sains.