By JEN CARDINES
Each year around May or June, the Apple Harvest Festival committee begins to think about candidates for the Parade Grand Marshal, a person who leads hundreds of marchers through Southington’s downtown area during the big event.
“Although there are no set criteria, the committee looks to select someone who has exemplified community service and has contributed to the festival in some capacity,” committee co-chair Tom Lombardi said.
The committee chooses a noteworthy individual to lead the parade, and in the 49th annual event, locals can cheer on Captain Lowell DePalma as he makes his way down Main Street.
“The parade Grand Marshal is really representative of what the Apple Harvest is all about,” Lombardi said, “volunteerism and community spirit. It allows all Parade spectators a chance to see a person who has stood out in the community for different reasons and honor their achievements.”
Capt. DePalma recently retired from the Southington Police Department after 37 years of service, but he stayed on the force to help part-time. He was actively involved in the community and was awarded several honors including Elks Officer of the Year, Grange Club Person of the Year, YMCA Person of the Year, the United Way Community Impact Award, and Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) program awards.
He was also the first DARE officer and crime prevention coordinator in town.
“Over the last 37 years, DePalma has worked closely with the Apple Harvest Festival to ensure a safe and fun environment…and contributed to the success of the festival,” officials said in a press release.
DePalma said that throughout his career, his AHF involvement was “all over the place” from representing the DARE program and Police Explorers, to working as an officer with regards to public safety and traffic direction.
“I worked with the festival committee to help facilitate the particular needs of the community and the committee for a successful festival,” DePalma said. He said he also worked with the festival coordinator “to achieve the various goals and objectives of the committee.”
For the first time in decades, DePalma will not be stationed on duty during the parade; rather, he will be riding downtown waving to the crowds.
“I was so honored when they called and told me,” DePalma said. “I’ve been involved with the festival since I was a kid, and I always went and had a great time. It’s one of the biggest parts of Southington.”
After joining the SPD in 1980, DePalma’s involvement became a bit more hands-on, as he was scheduled to patrol the streets and ensure the public’s safety.
DePalma said “it’s all hands on deck” on parade day, where everyone on the squad is somewhere helping out. “If I wasn’t the Grand Marshal, I’d be working too,” he added.
The public can honor his years of service as he leads the parade on Oct. 1—the first Sunday of the festival—at 2 p.m.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.