The draw of the Dorchester Day Parade

I’ve never managed to get the hang of crowds.

This is not an ideal thing for a reporter to struggle with. I’ve had to cover rallies, games, marches and parades, of varying intensity and size, from Boston to Worcester. The bigger the crowd, the more my subconscious searched for a quiet bookstore to slip into and allow it all pass by.

The Dorchester Day Parade was always the exception, because the parade doesn’t draw a crowd, it draws a neighborhood. There is its nods to the rich history of Dorchester, originally a Puritan settlement, and to the diverse, better present, with the DotOut float and the Irish and Vietnamese-American dancers. It’s also a look into the future. A city councilor who goes to Congress, a state representative who becomes mayor, a professor who turns into a senator.

The day of the parade, I’d ride the Mattapan trolley to Lower Mills, sometimes joined by a band wearing full outfits and carrying their instruments in the summer weather. I’d make an iced coffee stop and spot a Civil War soldier also running on Dunkin’ at the walk-up order window on the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Adams Street. Then I’d make my way down Richmond Street, prying bits of gossip from City Hall and State House aides, and their bosses in the street, waiting for their turn to join the procession.

From there, it was up the avenue, following along, taking pictures and gathering color, trying to stick to the shade and sidestep the families that planted themselves on the sidewalk. I’ll confess that I rarely walked the whole way up. I would usually hop back on the train at Ashmont, and head to where the parade ended, close to to the JFK/UMass stop.

In more recent years, my routine has been a little different. I’m still on the hunt for gossip, but I stay in Lower Mills to watch the launch before heading to that other crucial part of Dorchester Day: The backyard BBQ with friends and family.

I’ll miss all that this year. But I can’t help but think back to my first Dorchester Day Parade as a freelancer for the Reporter. In 2004, I was “embedded” on a float built by the Dorchester Historical Society. The rain pounded us as the truck slowly made its way up Dorchester Ave. I remember the rain was suffocating and terrible.

But I also remember Earl Taylor, Fred MacDonald, Don McGill and the others were all laughing, smiling and waving. It was a dark day but we weathered it. 

It’s not the crowds that make Dorchester Day, it’s the people and the neighborhood they proudly champion and represent. That’s worth celebrating, rain or shine, inside or outside, pandemic or no pandemic.

Gintautas Dumcius is the digital editor at the Boston Business Journal and a former news editor at the Reporter.