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EAST LONGMEADOW — When Paul Federici marches in the Fourth of July Parade this year, he won’t be somewhere in the middle with politicians, local businesses or bands. Federici, 68, will be stepping out first, as grand marshal of this year’s annual parade in East Longmeadow.

“When I got the news I’d been named Grand Marshal, I said, ‘You must have gotten to the bottom of the barrel,’” he told Reminder Publishing.

Federici is a private accountant, working in East Longmeadow since 1985 and living in the town since 1995. He’s been a member of the parade committee since 2005 and is currently the group’s treasurer. He’s also been a local politician.

“I had 10 lovely years as a selectman and [town] councilor,” said Federici, who ended his term on the Town Council in 2019 as vice chairman. “I hope I effected some positive changes during my years on the council.”

Federici also served on the local Make-A-Wish Foundation’s board of directors and has been in the Rotary Club of East Longmeadow since 1995. Now, because of it all, he gets to march first in the big parade.

“It’s nice to have somebody else look at what you’ve done and think it was a positive thing,” he said. “I love the town. It’s a neat place to live and it’s grown tremendously in the 28 years we’ve lived here and the 39 years I’ve worked here.”

Carl Ohlin has been a member of the parade committee since 1985, serving as parade chairman in 1995. He was even Grand Marshall in 2021, so he knows the thrill of waving to the crowd on Independence Day.

“People wave and cheer and it’s very uplifting,” he said. “It feels wonderful because, sometimes they come running out, and they’re not supposed to—but they run out to shake your hand. It’s a pleasure seeing all the people who are there and they cheer for you.”

East Longmeadow’s July 4 parade dates back more than a century and a half, but the committee has been naming grand marshals for only the last 25 years. Ohlin said back then, parade committees in other towns had grand marshals, so the East Longmeadow committee thought it would be good to have them too.

As Federici and the other marchers wind their way through town on the 2.3 mile route, he’ll have many things on his mind, like what the holiday means to him.

“It’s a time to honor our country and the people who’ve given us what we have, the soldiers for the most part, and everyone else. There’s that expression, ‘Freedom isn’t free.’ It’s taken a lot of people over a number of years to protect our country and our freedoms and put us in the place we are now.”

When Federici and his wife moved to East Longmeadow, they were looking forward to life in a small town, where they could be on local committees, hold public office and help organize a parade that has become a holiday tradition for tens of thousands of people across Western Massachusetts.

“That’s Americana, the essence of our country. When you can get so many people on the parade route and get everybody involved, just for one day and to have our little town putting the parade on, I think that’s really cool, and it says a lot about this small town and how we get things done.”

During the parade, as he’s riding high on enthusiasm and pride, it might also occur to Federici what got him there in the first place.

“It’s the whole body of work, it’s not just the parade. It’s not just politics. It’s not just the Rotary Club. It’s a combination of things. I guess when they put it all together, they figured I was deserving. So yeah, it is an honor.”

The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. with units stepping off from East Longmeadow High School on their way to where the even ends at Birchland Park Middle School. Organizers expect thousands of marchers, including around 100 groups and floats, to pass along Maple Street, North Main Street, Westwood Avenue and Hanward Hill.