It seems like an eternity ago when virtually every day for two weeks had some sort of activity going on for Charlestown Pride Week and all in anticipation of the big Battle of Bunker Hill Day Parade that came the Sunday before June 17 – the actual Battle of Bunker Hill Day. It was a whirlwind of activities, exhausting but in a fun and enjoyable way. Then it was gone just like that. Everything was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and while most expected a return in 2021, that didn’t happen either. They say it only takes three to five years of inactivity to lose a community tradition, no matter how long and how treasured it had once been.
The Bunker Hill activities and Parade had been on the upswing in participation and popularity prior to COVID-19 after being threatened with folding five to 10 years ago. This year something had to be done. Kudos go to everyone for having something happen, particularly to Sean Boyle, Aileen Gorman and Erica Walsh of All Roads Lead to Charlestown – who stepped up and planned and permitted the Bunker Hill or Bust festival on the Training Field, the bar/restaurant crawl, the Fitness Boot Camps and the enjoyable car and pedestrian “procession” on Sunday.
There were certainly other things, but it was a shot in the arm that few knew we needed, but became abundantly clear just about 15 minutes into the Bunker Hill or Bust festival – an unbridled success that would have been a winner in a non-pandemic year. As I walked up to the Training Field on Saturday morning, the event was only 20 minutes old, but there were already hundreds of people there. A kids band was playing, there were like 80 strollers parked on the sidewalk, and community was once again happening.
The excitement continued all afternoon, and thousands must have come through the Training Field – which clearly needs to once again become a key part of Charlestown Pride Week and the Parade day. The night before the toast to General Joseph Warren’s birthday was also a major hit at the Warren Tavern. With only a few key members of the Charlestown Militia and the community showing up last year for a hesitant toast in the midst of COVID, this year’s event was festive and “normal.” The Parade was the same situation on Sunday.
As I walked the route, it was the people on the sidewalks, curbs and parks that were the highlight, and not the actual procession. The Parade didn’t have professional bands or cool militia or comic book characters, but it had a bunch of people who did what they could to bring people a few hours of joy and keep the tradition going. Next year, Parade Organizer Arthur Hurley will crank the traditional Battle of Bunker Hill Day Parade machine into working order and probably coordinate, with help, the Parade of the Century.
We asked him this weekend what the 2022 Parade would look like. “How much money do you have?” he asked back. So, it’s going to be great, no doubt. The thing that stuck out to me along the Parade route this year were all of the smiles from those watching – from the smallest children to the family BBQ at Doherty Park to the elderly adults coming from Zelma Lacey. No doubt, Bunker Hill was threatened after two years of nothing, but what was threatened was the joy and community of it. That was sustained last weekend.