A Festive Fourth in Needham

July 5, 2024
• For many, Independence Day isn’t complete without the Needham July 4th parade.

The annual celebration attracted hundreds of Needham residents and out-of-towners, who set up on sidewalks and yards for a front row seat to the holiday. For close to 75 years, Needham has hosted the parade, which is organized by the Exchange Club and funded through donations and local sponsors.

A vintage Needham fire truck appeared in the Fourth of July parade. (Cameron Morsberger)

As the sirens began to blare, attendees knew the parade was about to begin. A procession of emergency vehicles, including modern and antique fire trucks, ambulances and police cars from Needham and neighboring towns, sounded their alarms and flashed their lights for onlookers.

The honor of parade grand marshal went to Tedi Eaton, who retired as the Needham town clerk after 42 years in office. Other officials spotted in the parade include State Sen. Becca Rausch, members of the Select Board and State Rep. Denise Garlick, who announced earlier this year that she, too, will not seek reelection.

Tedi Eaton, the former Needham town clerk, was named grand marshal of the Fourth of July parade. (Cameron Morsberger)

A replica Town Hall float made its way along this year’s route, as did His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot — a British infantry reenactment group — and the Boxborough and Stow Minutemen, who drew and fired their muskets. Known for her decorative floats, realtor Louise Condon designed this year’s entry inspired by the Olympic Games.

The parade started by Greene’s Field, moved up and around the Town Common, down May Street, up Webster Street and down Highland Avenue, where it ended outside the Needham Free Public Library.

State Rep. Denise Garlick smiles at onlookers during the Fourth of July parade. (Cameron Morsberger)

The night before the festivities, the town launched fireworks from Needham High School, another tradition that drew an estimated 25-30,000 people, according to the Needham Police Department.

In his 60-odd years of living in Needham, Bob Timmerman has missed just two July 4th parades. On the corner of Highland Avenue and May Street, he and his wife Beth set up a table with bagels, cookies and other treats around 7:30 a.m., while many chairs still sat empty.

This year, the family got to celebrate alongside its newest member: their 10-month-old grandson, who also tagged along to the fireworks show.

A family watches floats go by in the Fourth of July parade. (Cameron Morsberger)

“There’s no other place I’d want to be,” Bob Timmerman said. “It’s a great hometown celebration.”

Needham resident Jess Delaney has spent 31 consecutive years participating in the parade. As a teenager, Delaney started building his own floats, constructing a “community float” for 20 years.

With the floats as his canvas, Delaney has replicated different town buildings over the years, including Town Hall and the police and fire stations, as well as more elaborate undertakings — he built a sinking Titanic on the 100th anniversary of the disaster as well as a Boston Strong float after the marathon bombing in 2013.

A replica Town Hall float in the Needham Fourth of July parade this year. (Cameron Morsberger)

For the last several years, Delaney’s pulled the Plugged-In Band float, which features young performers singing and playing instruments along the route. Needham’s celebration is one he never wants to miss, he said.

“This is one of the best parades,” Delaney said.

The Rougeaux family has forgone the Newton July 4th events for Needham’s for the past five years. The town’s festivities feel smaller and more local, husband and father Bob Rougeaux said, and his daughter Estelle, 7, enjoys the candy — specifically Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Parade onlookers wave their American flags. (Cameron Morsberger)

“It’s a very traditional, classic New England parade, with the antique fire trucks and equipment,” he said.

Children and adults alike wore their stars and stripes for the occasion, including Willa Coville, 6, of Dover. The proximity and tradition of the parade were big draws for the Covilles, who have family members in Needham. The family of four has attended the parade for about four years.

Willa said the cars and sirens are fun to watch, but she enjoys getting candy the most.

American flags waved across Needham during the parade. (Cameron Morsberger)

“I get to eat it right away when I get it,” she said.

Susan Padell, of East Walpole, has attended the Needham parade for close to 35 years. She and her husband Jeffrey picked a spot along Highland Avenue, where they snapped photos and waved their American flags.

Each year, the couple attends the Free Masons’ pancake breakfast before the parade begins. Wearing a flag-patterned scrunchie and sequin flag pin, Padell remarked about the significance of the celebration.

“It’s such a tradition, there’s so much emotion in it,” Padell said. “For me, it wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without the Needham parade.”

For full coverage of the Fourth of July Parade and interviews with participants, view the Needham Channel’s coverage online.

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