WILLIAMSTOWN -- The town's celebration of the Fourth of July was fit for a postcard: A parade, free food and music, readings of the Declaration of Independence and the British response, and later, an evening of baseball and fireworks.
Hundreds flooded the town to partake in the events, with the parade beginning at 11 a.m. and marching along Southworth, Main and Spring streets.
Juliet Crider, a Williamstown native who traveled across the country from Seattle to visit family and attend, summed up the spirit of the day for many.
"It's nice to come home for the small-town parade," Crider said.
Crider was with her husband, Eric Steig, and two children, Lucie, 9, and Henry, 6. She said the family makes one trip home annually -- always for the Fourth of July.
"It's a great time to enjoy all the summer things to do in the Berkshires and to see family and friends in town," Crider said.
Lucie and Henry, who, among other children, were delighted by the parade's horses, dragon costumes and the candy being tossed by marchers, were also looking forward to spending some time at Camp Sarsaparilla Pownal, Vt., this week.
Many town groups, including nonprofits, farms, gardeners, the Williamstown Elementary School Band and the League of Women Voters, joined the American Legion Color Guard and the North Adams SteepleCats baseball team in the parade.
After the parade, Spring Street filled up with people attracted by free food, drink and live music.
Later, at 1:30 p.m., the Williams College Museum of Art hosted a theatric reading of the Declaration of Independence and the British response. The Declaration was read by Wil liamstown Theatre Festival actor Finn Wittrock and actress Heather Lind, while comedian Lewis Black provided the British counterpoint for the second year running.
"It's become even more interesting to me in this second year," Black said in an interview before the reading. "It's about freedom and the people's relationship to it. ... It could be time for another revolution."
Black will perform in a stand-up comedy show, "The Importance of Being Lewis," on Monday, July 9, on the Williamstown Theatre Festival's Mainstage.
Wittrock and Lind's reading was punctuated by bursts of applause, while Black egged on the booing crowd as he launched into King George's haughty response.
Interrupted by laughter from the crowd after reading King George's boast of retaining the colony of Canada, Black scoffed:
"Oh, yeah, laugh it up, their money is worth more than ours, folks. I've been waiting all day to say that."
Wayne Hammond, assistant librarian at Williams College's Chapin Library, said the tradition of the readings dates back 30 years.
"The Chapin Library is one of four places in America that has copies of the original documents of the Declaration and the British response," Hammond said. "It's nice to have the British view; it gives a broad representation of the different political outlooks on our history."
The original documents were on display at Chapin Library until 3 p.m.
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, attended the day's festivities and identified Williamstown as the only place in America where both the Declaration and the British response is read.
"I think it's a very appropriate thing to be happening here because the original documents are here," Cariddi said. "It's a great tradition, and I'm pleased to see it's been built up so well by the town and the organizers."
At the close of events, Williams College students Sophia Chen, Becca Fallon and Justine Neubarth -- each entering their senior year and hailing from different places in the Northeast -- sat in the shade and reflected on the day's events.
"You never see so many people out in Williamstown," Chen said. "You hear about them, you see the houses, but something like this is definitely special."
The students planned to join others for a night of baseball and fireworks at the SteepleCats game in North Adams and a proper ringing-in of the American holiday.
To reach Phil Demers, email firstname.lastname@example.org.