PEPPERELL — The voters have spoken, and they want retiring Nissitissit Middle School Principal Michael Tikonoff to be Grand Marshall of this year’s Independence Day parade.
Tikonoff, who is leaving Pepperell after 16 years this summer, was thankful to be chosen and happy to accept the honor.
“I know the parade and celebration are very important to the people of Pepperell,” he said. “It’s very humbling to think the people in the community would give you this type of recognition. … It’s a pretty awesome feeling.”
Tikonoff was chosen via online voting this spring, from a field of recently retired candidates that included former Police Chief Alan Davis and former Town Clerk Lois Libby.
Election of the parade Grand Marshall is something new for this year, said Pepperell Fourth of July Committee Vice Chairman Carol Gates. She said they were able to do it through the power of Facebook and the committee website, saying e-mails poured in for the candidates and it also increased exposure for the Facebook page, which is updated several times per day and had 1,911 fans as of late May.
“Starting the Facebook page has really allowed us to talk directly with residents of Pepperell as well as surounding towns about what they like and want to see for the celebration,” she said.
As has been tradition, Pepperell’s Independence Day will be held on the first Saturday of July, and include a parade, field day, and fireworks, though Gates added some details are still coming together for this year’s celebration.
The largest unknown at this point is the exact parade route. As usual, it will begin at 12:30 at the Town Hall, but the rest depends on whether the covered bridge is open. Gates said the expectation is that the bridge will be open and the parade will end at the VFW if that’s the case. If not, the route will end at Nissitissit Middle School.
Either way, Gates expected the parade to be “huge” saying the roster includes a Navy marching band from New Jersey and Spartan Drum and Bugle Crops from Nashua, along with many area entertainers.
The field day will be held afterward on the town recreation field, which will include a battle of the bands, games, vendors, and other activities throughout the afternoon.
The festivities will conclude with fireworks above the upper field at Varnum Brook at dusk.
The Pepperell Independence Day celebration costs $28,000 and is entirely supported by donations and fundraising, which is done throughout the year. The list of fundraisers includes a tandem skydiving event with Skydive Pepperell on June 12, along with a dance, carnival, and golf tournament held earlier in the year. Another campaign focuses on “10 from 10,” pointing out that 1,000 households contributing $10 would be enough to get the job done.
Gates also urged residents to help the town secure a grant throughout he Liberty Mutual website. She said the company is holding a grant program were the celebration can get credits for each person who visits the website and answers patriotic questions, saying the 10 communities that have the most participation will each get $10,000 toward their celebration.
While it would be nice to get that grant, Gates was optimistic they’ll meet their fundraising goal the old fashioned way, through community support.
“It’s just been a great outpouring of support from the town,” she said.
Information about the celebration, along with opportunities to donate or volunteer, are available online at www.pepperell4thofjuly.org or by looking up the committee’s Facebook page.