By Oscar Lagac Farinas
“New York” is a name that glitters with the spectacle of the best of America; skyscrapers, iconic landmarks, Broadway, high-end shops, and all that spells big and vibrant.
In contrast, there is a small New York hamlet in the Adirondack Region in the northern part of New York State called Schroon. Or perhaps the more fitting one is Schroon Lake since it is surrounded by lakes. This is the centerpiece of this story.
Last July 2, Philippine Heritage Band, a marching band based in Vaughan north of Toronto visited Schroon, one of three towns that hosted 4th of July parades where PHB performed. The writer formed the band in 1980.
PHB travelled the whole day on July 2nd aboard 2 highway coaches and its equipment truck. After a stopover in Old Montreal and at the US duty-free store, the entourage crossed the US border and proceeded to Schroon Lake High School gym where we were housed. We were met by the school custodian, a gentleman named Dave Williams. It was about 10:30 at night.
Before retiring for the night, we asked for Dave’s recommendations for sightseeing the following day, our free day. He assertively suggested that their beach was the best. “You have to go to the beach”. “Or visit our shops”. “I can show you around”. “I can even have a special movie screening of the movie Man of Steel just for you”, he offered. We said we would think it over.
Morning came. Kate Huston, my parade contact, and her husband came to meet us. And so did the school superintendent. “You will like our beach. And don’t forget to watch our concert after the parade,” Kate reminded us. A short while later, Dave came. By then we had made up our mind and accepted his movie offer. Meanwhile, everybody went their own separate ways; kids walked to and from the beach, others for a stroll while some simply relaxed or went about their assigned chores.
At 1:00, we re-grouped at the gym and walked to the movie theatre. The movie theatre was an old, one-storey venue, with 2 attendants. The cash register was a vintage one that rang a bell as the attendant pressed a key to open the cash drawer. The movie was nice, loaded with high tech science fiction stuff.
After the movie, the band drilled and practiced their music at the school grounds in preparation for the parades the following day. Besides Schroon Lake, the other parades were in Bristol (Vermont) at 10:30, and Ticonderoga NY at 2:00. School neighbors watched and waved from their windows. Some came to the grounds and sat at the bleachers. They never had a big marching band marched in their parades before.
The 4th in Bristol and Ticonderoga were accomplished without a hitch. Spectators lined the parade route and cheered and applauded PHB as it played and marched by. It was mid-80 deg F and humid. Typical of PHB, members wore their complete gala from head to toe.
As we arrived in the Schroon Lake parade assembly area, we were met by a gentleman in a golf cart. He was one of the organizers. He was smiling from ear to ear and made us feel comfortable. “Thank you for coming to our small town,” he said. We stayed in the bus until the rain stopped. The rain did not stop until around 5:30 and even if we got off the buses, the buses could not go back to the school because the route was blocked at 5:00. Again, the gentleman escorted our buses allowing them to go through the police barriers.
As the band turned from assembly area to main street, we were greeted with rousing cheers from the thousands of spectators lined from start to finish. I heard someone shout “Pacquiao”. The band responded with the kind of music that Americans love to hear; Washington Post, Anchors Aweigh, Waltzing Matilda and Marines Hymn. As I was told later, many come from other towns just to watch the parade.
The night’s concert-in-the-park was high spirited capped with spectacular fireworks.
The gist of the story is the pride that the townspeople have in their small town. No matter how small the town that we live in may be, there is always something to be proud of, and the only thing it takes is to say it, and say it with pride.
About the Author: Oscar Lagac Farinas formed the Philippine Heritage Band
(PHB) of Vaughan, Ontario, www.phband.com a 100-piece Canadian marching band composed mainly of students. In his native homeland he is the owner of Shorestop Inn & Restaurant/Bed & Breakfast in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte www.shorestopinn.com