Montclair’s Fourth of July picnic and parade returning
By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
Montclair’s Fourth of July celebrations are returning after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The township’s parade will take place on Monday, July 4, starting at 11 a.m. The annual picnic will follow at Edgemont Park.
This year’s parade will be dedicated to the memory of Al Pelham, the longtime community leader who died on Aug. 19. Among his many roles, Pelham had led the Montclair chapter of the NAACP and the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation.
“Al never served as grand marshal of the July 4th parade, not because he wasn’t asked, but because he was too humble to accept,” Donato DiGeronim, chairman of the Montclair Celebrates July 4th Committee, said. “We remember and honor him as one of the greats.”
The two grand marshals honored during the parade won’t be individuals, but organizations — Toni’s Kitchen and the Human Needs Food Pantry, selected for their work to address food insecurity and serve the community’s most vulnerable residents in the pandemic.
“We are absolutely thrilled to bring the July 4th parade and picnic back to Montclair,” DiGeronimo said. “Our community has weathered a dark storm and deserves this celebration. We are so happy to revive this beloved tradition and we are proud to honor Toni’s Kitchen, the Human Needs Food Pantry and our friend Al Pelham.”
Toni’s Kitchen and the Human Needs Food Pantry were both established in 1982, and will both be celebrating 40 years serving the Montclair and surrounding communities.
“Toni's Kitchen is delighted to be one of the grand marshals of this year's Fourth of July parade — our favorite annual event,” Anne Mernin, the group’s director, said in an announcement from parade organizers. “It will be refreshing to see our community together, celebrating the goodwill that has kept us strong throughout these last two years.”
The president of the board of trustees of the Human Needs Food Pantry, Ken Rivlin, said in the announcement his organization was honored to be selected.
“This honor is especially meaningful because it marks the organization’s 40th year of service and 40 years of generosity, compassion, and love from the entire Montclair community,” Rivlin said. “We are extremely lucky and proud to be part of such a loving and diverse community and are excited to celebrate together.”
In 2020, the celebration was canceled for the first time in more than a century, though Montclair Celebrates assembled a collection of videos and photos from past events to mark the holiday.
The event was canceled again in 2021 as the pandemic continued, and it became difficult to plan for an event months out while the level of coronavirus spread and state-imposed restrictions remained in flux. Instead, Montclair Celebrates organized the “Caravan for Heroes,” honoring front-line workers. It also honored Dan Gill, the Glenfield School teacher of more than 50 years who’d originally been slated to serve as grand marshal for the parade in 2020.
The parade committee is asking the community to keep the tradition alive, and is looking for contributions to fund its programing. Anyone interested can donate via Venmo at @montclairjuly4.
For information about sponsorship opportunities, or press inquiries, contact DiGeronimo at email@example.com.