WILLIAMSTOWN -- Attending the town's annual "Hometown Fourth of July Parade," is an annual tradition for many of the spectators who lined Spring Street on Thursday, but for others it was their first celebration of Independence Day.
"We don't know what to expect," Kylie Marais, a student from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said as she waited for the parade to start. "We want to experience everything."
Marais, along with fellow University of Cape Town students Paballo Chauke, Jan-Louise Lewin and Aimee Carelse -- all of whom are Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows studying at Williams College -- were planning not only to view the parade, but also to attend the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence and the British reply at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA).
"We're also going to see our first baseball game tonight in North Adams," Lewin said, noting they planned to attend the North Adams SteepleCats game at Joe Wolfe Field and the fireworks display following it.
"We're hopeful and excited," Chauke said.
Carelse added, "We may even have our first hot dogs after the parade."
Nearby, Dorothy Reinke, a life-long Williamstown resident, was sitting with friends Leony Hooks and her niece, Ineka Saris, who was visiting from the Netherlands.
"It's the perfect parade," Saris said. "I come to visit for three weeks every year and I'm always here for July Fourth."
Reinke added, "It's something we do every year. This year, granddaughter is up visiting from Texas and she's in the parade."
She said her granddaughter, Connor Sprague, 18, would be riding on horseback as part of the group representing Bonnie Lea Farm, where she takes lessons each summer.
For many attending, the parade's draw is its hometown feel.
"It's something we look forward to every year," said Sue Durocher, of North Adams, who was attending with her husband Derek, and their 7-year-old twins, Madeline and Cameron. "It's quick. It's cute and the weather is usually good. There's also a nice cookout at the end."
Cameron and Madeline were quick to agree that their favorite part of the parade is the participation of the North Adams SteepleCats team.
"I also like getting the candy [thrown out by the parade participants]," Cameron added.
In addition to the North Adams SteepleCats, many town groups and organizations were represented in the parade, including the Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF), the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the Williamstown League of Women Voters, Berkshire Dance Theatre, along with several local farms.
Later, at 2 p.m., the festivities continued with WCMA hosting the thematic reading of the Declaration of Independence by actor Robert Sean Leonard and the British reply by actor Paxton Whitehead, both of whom are appearing in the WTF's upcoming production of "Pygmalion."