Bridgewater tractor parade will roll again

It seemed the recession was hitting everywhere.

Even it appeared the annual Bridgewater tractor parade was destined to be the latest victim of the economic downtown.

That all changed this week, however, as sponsors and donors rose to save the popular Labor Day weekend tradtion.

Rewinding to Monday, it seemed unless a third sponsor was found, the parade, which dates back to the early 1990s, might be canceled.

"It may not be happening," First Selectman Bill Stuart had said on Monday. "We have two sponsors but need another one."

On hearing the parade might not happen, state Attorney General Blumenthal said, tongue firmly planted in cheek, that he would "fight as hard as I've fought for any cause. We will not let this tractor parade fail."

The most celebrated of the parade's participants the past two years, Mr. Blumenthal has riddens the tractor that is to be raffled that day at the head of the parade.

"I would be heartbroken," Mr. Blumenthal said sincerely. "I have it marked on my calendar in big red letters. I'm astonished and appalled. I'm going to go to work [on it]. I'm calling Bill Stuart right now and we'll get to work. This parade is a great piece of Americana and 'Connecticana,' if there is such a word. It must happen."

And then, a wonderful thing happened.

Word got out the parade and its after-party were in danger and area businesses rose to the occasion.

John Kline, president and CEO of Union Savings Bank, had his staff call Mr. Stuart and offer sponsorship.

"We've been in Bridgewater for a while with a branch next to the country store," Mr. Kline said Tuesday. "We would hate to see a local tradition die."

"But mostly, we're doing this in John Allen's memory" he explained, noting that the late Washington resident was on the bank's Board of Trustees for years and had been involved for years with the Bridgewater Country Fair and events in that town.

Union Savings has pledged to donate up to $3,000 to make the parade happen.

Marlene Reiske, owner of ABC Fuel Oil in Brookfield, is donating up to $2,000.

"It's a community event and we're a small local company," Ms. Reiske said Tuesday. "The parade sounds pretty cool. Bill [Stuart] said if we could come up with a float, we could be in it. I think we'll do that."

"I've heard from Charter Communications, too," Mr. Stuart said Tuesday afternoon. "They may be a sponsor, too. I'm hoping they'll all make floats. I told them, if they do, I'll supply the tractors to pull them."

The tractor parade was the brainstorm of Mr. Stuart and his friend, George Allingham, two prominent figures in town.

Each year since the early 1990s the parade has made its way through the village center to a gathering for post-parade partying.

Each Sunday of Labor Day weekend, the quiet of Bridgewater is interrupted for several zany hours as dozens of tractors pull floats along Main Street in what may best be described as a costume party on wheels.

Bridgewater artist and cinematographer Walter VonEgidy has taken first prize numerous times over the years for his and friend Michael Tuz's creative floats.

Last year, they won with "One Million Years, B.C.," a tribute to the 1960s-era Raquel Welch movie.

Bridgewater caterer Julie Ledbetter portrayed a woman caught by a dinosaur that cavemen Mr. Von Egidy and Mr. Tuz were fighting with spears. The dinosaur, made of mylar tubing wrapped in bubblewrap and spray-painted green, spewed red tomato sauce diluted with water on the hapless cavemen.

"I would have missed sharing my eccentric imagination with the public," Mr. Von Egidy said upon hearing the parade had been saved.

"But after having been sacrificed to a giant cobra, mauled by a dinosaur and experimented on by headhunters, maybe Julie Ledbetter could use a break," he chortled.

This year, parade organizers were short by several thousand dollars to cover the cost of the event, which is normally about $7,000, Mr. Stuart said.

As the parade's organizer, he was delighted so many people think so highly of the event.

Contact Susan Tuz


or 860-355-7322