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Western Mass. parades push on through a soggy Fourth of July, and 50 new U.S. citizens take the oath

Although heavy rains put a damper on many Fourth of July activities, blue skies broke through at times Tuesday afternoon across western Massachusetts.

In Shelburne Falls, 6-year-old Ellie Shapiro and her father Jesse waited for the parade to begin. Jesse said July Fourth brings gratitude, frustration and shame.

But he's hopeful, he said, for "acceptance, tranquility, less divisiveness."

Betty Dubuque, 83, arrived early to get a good spot. Tucked under the open hatch of her car to avoid rain, she had one word to describe what the day means to her.

"Independence," she said. "We don’t realize it anymore as much as we should, but it’s a good day."

Allison Weeden of Greenfield was there with her children, 2-year-old Liam and 5-year-old Amelia. She said on Independence Day, she thinks about her grandfather and others who fought for the United States.

"My grandfather was a veteran. He has passed away— two years ago. Thinking of him today," she said. "It’s just a day of remembrance [for] all those who made sacrifices for their lives, you know, for us to be here today."

The parade included people who served in the military, along with fire fighters, police, a couple of horses and Smokey Bear.

Along with parades and fireworks, another western Massachusetts tradition took place this Fourth of July: 50 people became U.S. citizens at a ceremony at the courthouse in Northampton.

Gairy Wynter, a 47-year-old originally from Jamaica, took the oath of allegiance and knew exactly what his next step would be.

"I'm getting registered to exercise my Democratic rights when the time comes around,' said Wynter, a Springfield resident who works in construction.

The League of Women Voters had a table set up to register the new citizens to vote.

Wynter said casting a ballot will give him a voice in what happens in the country.

"Economic issues ... security, health, that we're all concerned about," he said.

Elections were also on the mind of another person completing the long road to citizenship on Tuesday — Wendy Spaeth, originally from the United Kingdom.

"I'm going to be able to vote, and that's very important to me, in this country that I've lived in for 28 years," she said.

Andrew Bygrave also took the oath of allegiance. The 46-year-old warehouse associate, originally from Jamaica, said he's privileged and honored to become a U.S. citizen.

"It means a lot for — not just me but for my family as well, my extended family, my children — and a great possibility for the future," he said.

About 100 friends, family and onlookers also attended the ceremony. It was the 15th annual naturalization ceremony hosted by the Center for New Americans, an immigrant services and education organization.

Sam Hudzik contributed.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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