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Dorchester Day: Our day to shine

Dorchester Day Parade 2013: Estrellas Tropicales: Photo by Chris LovettDorchester Day Parade 2013: Estrellas Tropicales: Photo by Chris Lovett

Dorchester Day Parade— Sunday, June 1, 2014— 1 p.m.
The latest parade roster- updated on Sun., June 1

The first Sunday in June is always the big one on Dorchester’s communal calendar. When the sun shines and the temps toy with the 70-degree mark— as they promise to do this weekend— you can expect as many as 100,000 to hit the sidewalks and stone walls along the parade route.

The first Dorchester Days were organized in the first years of the 20th century by folks who lived on farms and sailed on clipper ships. They could recall a time before three-deckers, street cars, and automobiles— and a time before Dorchester had been annexed by its bulging neighbor to the north, the city of Boston.

The 1870 annexation was inevitable and a wise move by town fathers on both sides of the border. In commemorating the settlement of the town of Dorchester in 1630, though, there has always been a hint of mischievousness: We were, after all, settled a month before “the city on a hill.” The focus of those earliest Dorchester Days — from records left behind—had that hint of nostalgia, the overt over-compensation of a town consumed. The talk was heavy with the deeds of a people who had long since taken up residency in one of the neighborhood’s three burial grounds.

Landing Day circa 1983: The late Rev. James K. Allen of First Parish Church led the reenactment of Dorchester's settlement in 1630.Landing Day circa 1983: The late Rev. James K. Allen of First Parish Church led the reenactment of Dorchester's settlement in 1630.Sunday’s parade, of course, has shed much of that bygone connection. Landing Day, which was once part of the annual Dot Day “celebrations,” is no more. In a nod to the first Dot Days, the ceremony featured re-enactors clad in Puritan garb rowing their way onto the shore at Savin Hill Beach.

Take a look at the parade roster on Page 4 — graciously supplied to us by the Parade Committee and its excellent adjutant, Ed Geary, Jr.: There’s no doubt that a celebration of modern-day Dorchester is really about the people who live here now. The baseball leagues and color guards, the church groups, the politicians, the non-profits, and the men and women of law enforcement. Like the neighborhood itself, it’s an eclectic and an inclusive collection.

Geary, who has been charged with putting order to the chaos, says he’s most excited about a new entry in this year’s parade: Team MR8, the shorthand name for the Martin W. Richard Foundation, named for the eight-year-old neighbor we lost tragically at the 2013 Boston marathon. Team MR8 made its big splash at this year’s marathon and has already begun issuing grants to local causes from their initial fundraising haul of the last several months.

“The fact that the Richard family are going to not only see the parade but are also excited to show their support back to the Dorchester community says volumes about them and their character,” said Geary, who notes that this year’s parade is bigger than last year’s with “at least 11 new groups or organizations” signed on to march.

The other new element this year, of course, will be the presence of the first mayor of Boston from Dorchester in over a half-century. Marty Walsh walked the parade as a kid and has walked it more than 15 times as a politician. His contingent when he was a candidate last year was unsurprisingly mammoth. But, there will be something special about having one of our own leading the procession this year.

All these many years have passed since Dorchester’s (all-male) voters decided to throw their lot in with Boston and join a league of neighborhoods. At times, we have gotten a raw deal from the transaction. We’ve been sliced and diced by policy wonks who don’t understand the place well enough to draw the lines right. Census counters have lopped off whole sections of Dot and assigned their numbers to other city neighborhoods. The tourist guides leave us out entirely.

That’s all fine. Sunday is Dorchester Day. It’s our day to shine. And that’s exactly what we’ll do.

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