Blades goes big for its 100th Anniversary

By Lynn R. Parks

Fred Smith Jr. has lived in his house on High Street in Blades for 50 years. Until this weekend, he had seen only one parade pass by.

On Saturday, he, his wife, Louise, and family friend Gloria Smith sat on his front porch, waiting for another parade. Smith's hometown of Blades was celebrating its 100th birthday and a parade was to be part of the festivities.

"I think that this is great," Louise Smith said about 10 minutes before the parade was to start.

"This is just perfect," added Gloria Smith, a native of Blades whose father, Francis Parks, served as town police chief in the 1950s.

Smith had been to the Blades Park earlier in the day, where there were food booths and vendors as well as musical entertainment. "Everything is really well put together today," she said. "I am really pleased with how everything is going."

Former mayor and master of ceremonies at the park David Ruff said that the smooth-running day was no accident. Planning for the birthday weekend started about 18 months ago. "There were a lot of people who stepped up to support this, and we truly appreciate that," he said. "A lot of great people came together to make this happen."

The weekend's events also included a community dinner, held Friday night in the Blades Park. On Sunday, the Blades Marina hosted its annual Nanticoke River Marine Park Festival.

On Saturday before the start of the parade, twins Liam and Chloe Cates, 3, waited patiently in line in Blades Park while Sandy Johnson, a.k.a. Sunshine the Clown, twisted balloons into animal shapes. Standing nearby were their parents, Rebecca and Shannon Cates, and her brother, Joseph, 2, who was also keeping an eye on the clown and the balloons. The family had previously visited the face-painting booth, proof of which was on the children's faces.

"We've done sand art and we're waiting for the parade to start," Shannon Cates said. "We are enjoying every minute of this day."

Standing on Market Street, also waiting for the start of the parade, were Fred Foote of Seaford and his granddaughter Morgan Shreve, 9, of Dundalk, Md. "This whole event is pretty neat," Foote said. Morgan was looking forward to seeing the bands march by.

Grand marshal of the parade was Jim Bowden, a native of Seaford who is active with the Georgetown and Seaford historical societies. Bowden portrayed the town's first police chief, Arthur "Hotsie" Hatfield. He rode in a convertible with Hatfield's granddaughter, Ann Blake.

Bands from Seaford High School and Seaford Middle School marched in the parade. Equipment from the Blades, Greenwood, Bridgeville, Laurel and Seaford volunteer fire departments drove the route and dancers from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church Hispanic Ministry performed.

Members of the Blades Town Council and Mayor Robert Adkins rode in a horse-drawn wagon, along with state Rep. Dave Wilson. The Seaford City Council and Mayor David Genshaw rode in the city's 1919 Seagrave pumper truck, the first piece of motorized equipment that the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department owned. Also in the parade were state Sen. Bryant Richardson, state Rep. Daniel Short and Sussex County Council president Mike Vincent.

The New Edition Marching Band from Baltimore, which earlier in the day participated in a parade to celebrate the 140th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, brought up the rear of the parade.

Blades' 100th birthday celebration will conclude with the burying of a time capsule near town hall. Ruff said that while time is growing short, there are still a few days in which people can donate items for the capsule. For details, call town hall, 629-7366.

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