A beloved New England tradition for more than half a century, sunny skies graced the 2017 Shad Derby Festival Green and Parade Saturday, May 20 in Windsor, Connecticut. Festival and parade-goers turned out in large numbers on this gorgeous day to enjoy what is a signature event of Connecticut’s first town.
It started with a small – socially conscious – fishing derby in 1955. First held to clean up the Connecticut River and its banks in Windsor, which is situated at the confluence of the Connecticut and Farmington rivers and neighbors the state’s capital city. Over the years the Shad Derby has grown to become a highly anticipated spring ritual attracting thousands.
One of the highlights for those who turn out is welcoming the newly crowned Shad Derby Queen & her court. Each year they travel the parade route on the Queen’s Float, sponsored by the Civitan Club since the 1980s. The 2017 Shad Derby Queen – Cassie Okeke was accompanied by her court – Amanda Schwartz, Jasmine Rush, Madeira Alexander and Brittney Brown.
“The shad always return,” is the motto of the event put on by the Windsor Jaycees; the group also entered a Shad Derby parade float.
Heralded as a great New England tradition, the Shad Derby Festival Green & Parade provide a snapshot of hometown U.S.A. Among the popular annual attractions is a depiction of a shad ‘swimming’ the parade route and symbolizing the annual upstream migration of shad back to Windsor. In 2003 shad was named Connecticut’s state fish. Shad was chosen due to its historic significance as a source of food and commerce dating back to having fed Native Americans and colonists.
Popular among onlookers were the Hartford-based Ebony Horsewomen. Later the group gave a pleasant surprise to patrons at the iconic Bart’s Drive-In, stopping by the restaurant which is located near the banks of the Farmington River. Milkshakes for their horses?
Windsor Fife & Drum Corps offered a reminder of the nation’s roots in the American Revolution; the Windsor High School Marching Band showcased other talented youths. The Windsor Warriors Air Force R.O.T.C. took part on what was , as well, Armed Forces Day. Members of the Windsor Freedom Trail Committee marked their 21st anniversary. Among the politicians participating were 1st District Congressman John Larson and United States Sen. Richard Blumenthal. After walking in the parade, Blumenthal took time to shake some hands.
Drawing applause was Thomas Hastings, “Windsor’s Biggest Red Sox Fan.” Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, Thomas has thrown out the first pitch at Fenway Park – home to the Boston Red Sox. Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Thomas also had a Fantasy Fenway miniature replica of the famous ballpark build in the backyard of his Windsor home.
Over on the Town Green the festival was in full swing.
Shad Derby Festival Green & Parade is held annually on the third Saturday in May. Visit http://www.windsorshadderby.org to learn more.