Williamsport parade welcomes Fairfield American
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — They swayed and danced to the music. They waved their fathead posters in the air. They held up pictures, cheered and waved to their heroes.
It was hard to determine who had more fun Wednesday afternoon at the 13th annual Grand Slam Welcome parade: The parents of the Fairfield American Little League team or the players themselves, who were honored like conquering heroes, riding on a massive float, tossing small, soft rubber baseballs to the fans who lined the parade route.
“This is a once-in-a- lifetime experience,” said Hope Dexler, the grandmother of Ethan Righter, as she watched from a front row vantage point on Fourth Street. “We wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
Hope and her husband drove up from Bluffton, S.C., almost three weeks ago to watch the sectionals, the states and the New England tournaments, before doing some laundry and packing their bags for Williamsport.
Right along aside were all the other Fairfield American families, a group that took up over 60 chairs in front of the Genetti Hotel.
Champions from Connecticut
Fairfield American is the 20th team from Connecticut to reach the Little League World Series since 1948. Three of those teams have come from Fairfield. Here’s the list:
1948 - Middletown, 1949 - Bridgeport, 1950 - Bridgeport, x-1951 - Stamford, x-1952 - Norwalk (National), 1957 - Bridgeport (North End), 1958 - Darien, 1963 - Stratford (Original), x-1965 - Windsor Locks, 1974 - New Haven (Walter Smith), 1976 - Bristol (Forestville), 1981 - Stamford (Federal), 1983 - Stamford (American), 1984 - Bristol (McCabe-Waters), x-1989 - Trumbull (National), 2008 - Shelton (National), 2010 - Fairfield (American), 2012 - Fairfield (American), 2013 - Westport, 2017 - Fairfield (American)
x-Won Little League World Series
Paul and Dina Kalagher and their three sons — Colin 10, Aidan 8 and Dylan 6 — were staking their claim to several seats in the second row after making the four-plus hour trip from Fairfield.
“Owen has three youngers brothers and it’s usually tough getting them up in the morning, but today they were excited,” Dina Kalagher said. “We got all packed up, we made no stops and it was great. Here we are.”
“This is amazing,” she said of the parade. “We’re right up close. I’m excited.”
The Iannazzo family was well represented as not only were Michael’s brother Matthew and sister Lauren catching candy in the front row, but grandparents Tony and Millie Iannazzo were there, along with Jacques and Nicole Michaud (Pam Iannazzo’s parents) and cousins Isabelle and Nicholas Michaud.
“It’s unbelievable to be here,” Pam Iannazzo said. “There are so many people here that are just fans, it’s just lovely.”
Lisa Ashkinos showed her loyalty to Fairfield American by getting her big toenails and the ring fingers on each hand adorned with the New England ‘NE’ logo - in the region’s purple colors, no less.
“More power to her, you got to love it,” said husband Mark, who did not get his nails done. “This is incredibly special for (Troy) and for us,” Mark said. “We were here when Westport played (in 2013), but to see our own son doing this, it’s brilliant.”
Right next to the New England contingent was the Australian party, needless to say, still somewhat jetlagged.
“We flew 14 hours from Sydney to Los Angeles, another five hours from L.A. to New York City and then a three-hour bus ride from New York to Williamsport,” said Janelle Purchase, mother of Aussie catcher Hayden Purchase. “We got to America on Sunday night and here today.”
The Australian party spent three days recovering in New York City, seeing every sight to can imagine.
“We did the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial,” Purchase said. “We walked and walked and walked and iIt was wonderful.”