HARWICH — Residents will be lining the streets to celebrate Harwich “Then and Now” as the Hometown Parade rolls along Route 28 in Harwich Port on Sunday in the annual chamber of commerce-sponsored event.
“The town will be stepping out to Celebrate Harwich ‘Then and Now.’ Come line the streets and show your Harwich spirit,” Cyndi Williams, executive director of the chamber, said of one of events leading into the Harwich Cranberry Festival.
The grand marshal this year knows a little bit about “Then and Now” in Harwich. Recently retired Deputy Police Chief Thomas Gagnon spent many years on the police department and “we felt we wanted to honor him for his service,” Williams said.
“It’s important to honor our public safety officials, who always take care of us and this is a way to recognize their contributions to community,” she said.
“I was caught by surprise, totally surprised,” Gagnon said of the announcement.
Gagnon worked for 39 years in public safety, with 33 of those years in the Harwich Police Department. He said he saw a lot of change over the years. He retired a few months ago.
Back when Gagnon started in the police department, he said, everything was done by hand, major incidents went on pink cards and minor on green cards and they were time-stamped by a clerk. It was all done on an old typewriter. Now technology has taken over and allows immediate information access. He recollected driving the huge Crown Victoria Fords with the big engines for speed.
Those were the days when alcohol incidents kept the department busy while now it is more about drugs. He talked about the old Lincoln Lodge off of Lower County Road which had “Nantucket Sleigh Ride (a house drink) nights.” He said customers could get particularly rowdy and the police department would have to get a school bus from Bob Joy and officer Bob Curry would drive it, taking in 30 to 40 intoxicated people.
“You don’t see the big gatherings anymore,” Gagnon said. “The college kids don’t come down anymore.”
Gagnon has many fond memories of the department and its personnel over the years. He was hired by Police Chief John Raneo in 1986 and became very close with Police Chief Norman Fennell, and he had great respect for Lt. Manny Gomes. “Manny was the most phenomenal person I’ve ever worked with,” Gagnon said.
He had great things to say about police chiefs Bill Greenwood and Bill Mason and emphasized the department is in good hands with Police Chief David Guillemette and Deputy Police Chief Kevin Considine.
“It was a little quieter back then, but we pretty much have the same staffing,” Gagnon said of the department today. “But I miss it a lot, the camaraderie. I also miss the public interaction terribly so.”
Gagnon still works a few road construction details and he spends time working on his house. He plans to put it on the market in the next year and move to Merideth, N.H. Gagnon said he’s been going to New Hampshire since he was a young boy and loves the mountains.
As for the parade, Gagnon said his wife and daughter will ride with him. He said his wife is a big fan of the 1959 Cadillac, the one with the big fins, and they are hoping to find one to ride in on parade day. As for the parade itself, he said “it will be great to see a lot of the old-timers and people who have helped me out over the years.”
This year's parade will feature floats, music and entertainments, including unicorns, pirates and a float filled with puppies put on by Sand Castle Doggies Play Care, Williams said. There will be a variety of classic cars, public safety apparatus and the Good Times Ice Cream truck will be handing out hundreds of ice cream bars. Even Santa will make a special appearance.
Williams said the Drumma Queens will be returning and Mr. Gotcha will also be appearing. Monomoy Regional High School and Cape Tech athletes will be represented, and there will be Girl Scouts and Brownies participating.
The parade sponsors this year will be Harwich Paint and Decorating and Wingate at Harwich. The parade will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Route 28 and Freeman Street and moves through Harwich Port, turning right on Doane Road and then onto South Street and on to the Harwich Elementary School, William said.
There is no rain date for the parade, she added.