Rain can't dampen spirits along Dot Day parade route

Noontime. There is already a mist in the air by the Common Ground restaurant in Lower Mills. This reporter has the pleasure of riding in a shiny, bright blue Mustang convertible with three lovely girls, none other than Little Miss Dorchester 2007, Vany Cardoso, and runners-up Paige McEachern and Kaysea Ruffin. Excited and maybe a little nervous, we all practice waving to the early birds eagerly awaiting the beginning of the Dorchester Day Parade.

Across the street, politicians, war veterans, and police officers chat and tie up loose ends.

Line dancers from the East Boston Buddhist Temple get ready for what member David Phan calls a traditional dance "to scare away evil spirits." Dynasty Productions dancers are clad in glitter and bright costumes.

Smiling faces mix in with those anxious to get the parade started.

"Good weather" is what Dave Andrews, drum major for Spartans, a marching band from New Hampshire, is hoping for, while past State Commander John Regan of the Disabled American Veterans recognizes that "weather is always going to be difficult."

Sheldon Hamblin of the Brian Boru Pipe Band said, "[once] it rained so hard, we couldn't get the pipes to sound for the majority of the parade."

Parade-goer Marilyn Timm says that even if it rains, "I'll stand here and watch it."

Back at the convertible, we start moving at a crawl right behind Mayor of Dorchester Craig Galvin. Cardoso is looking forward to "having a good time and waving to everyone I know," McEachern cannot wait to see "my family and friends," and Ruffin is ready to throw candy and be on television. With tootsie rolls and lollipops to toss to people in hand, the girls, all eight years old, are ready.

They wave to everyone in the crowd. Every now and then they shout "Happy Dorchester Day!" and people on the sidewalk applaud.

Passing Dorchester Park, someone says, "Look at that little princess, she's so beautiful."

Someone else shouts excitedly, "she goes to my school!"

By the time the Mustang reaches Peabody Square, people are huddled under umbrellas and blankets, trying to stay warm and dry.

But as we reach Fields Corner MBTA station the rain dwindles to a sprinkle. People hang out of their windows or sit on their stoops to catch sight of the parade. People of different ethnic backgrounds and ages gather on the sidewalk.

Some are cheering, others waving and smiling. Still others are simply enjoying whatever they have in their red or blue plastic cups.

The smell of barbeques fills the air, and our stomachs grumble.

It is now about 2:30 p.m. and the girls are getting antsy. Cardoso says, "I'm waving so much, tomorrow my hands are going to fall off." Ten blocks to go.

Kids yelling "Paige!" teachers cheering, "Hi Miss Kaysea!" and people walking into the street to take pictures of Little Miss Dorchester, can make anyone feel like a celebrity. Nearing the end of the route, the girls are happy they made it through.

If the friendly faces and applause are any measure, the crowd enjoyed the parade as well.

To Kevin George, Dorchester Day means "a celebration of a great community. A great family community."

"We have old timers, we have newcomers," George said. "It brings all the neighbors together." He always looks forward to the Irish bagpipes.

Bartender Kevin Callaghan at Tom English's says the parade is good for business. It is also "good for Dorchester."

It "helps the community, bring[ing] it all together," he says.

On the same block, one of the owners of Dorchester Market, Kevin Demille, agrees that the parade gives business a boost. He enjoys seeing "people around in the neighborhood," along with those who have moved away but come back to celebrate.

Over the First Panamanian International Marching Band of Boston's drum routine, Dorchester Day Parade Committee Treasurer Joe Chaisson talks about why he works the parade year after year.

"I don't know any better," he says, chuckling. "I just enjoy doing it. For years I watched the parade and I wanted to be part of it," he says.

Chaisson pays the bills and organizes fundraising. Many still think the parade is free, he said, but in actuality it costs $30,000 to $40,000 to "put the parade down the street."

In the end, Chaisson says, "it's always been a day to look forward to."

Ed and Karen Crowley have run the parade for over a decade. When asked what he does in a nutshell, Ed says, "I orchestrate the whole thing. I'm the conductor, and then I have my whole own orchestra of all the staff people and volunteers.

"And without them, I'm nothing," he adds.

Every year, the parade has a theme. This year's theme was honoring those who serve their country, with Brian Fountaine, Terrence "Shane" Burke, and Christopher Saunders serving as Chief Marshals in the parade. Sergeant Daniel Londono and Specialist Edgardo Zayas, both killed in Iraq, are also honored as Chief Marshals.

Crowley said the soldiers need to be recognized for their sacrifices. They are the symbolic leaders of the parade.

At the end of the parade, Boston City Council at-large candidate John Connolly stops to talk about the three mile route he just walked.

"I feel lighter than I did at the beginning," he says, laughing.

Of the parade, he says, "It celebrates a community that people care so deeply about."

Performers, organizations, politicians, band members, along with those who come out to see them and those who work behind the scenes to make sure it is a success, come together on the first Sunday of June. Whether you have lived in Dorchester all of your life or just come to visit, it is a celebration of community.