CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Borough will hold its 66th consecutive Fourth of July Parade, after all, thanks to a letter written to Chatham Borough Mayor Thaddeus Kobylarz by a 12-year-old resident.

Mayor Kobylarz acknowledged the letter from Chatham Middle School student Emma Zapata and read it at the Borough of Chatham Council meeting Monday night. He also read his response, adopting her idea for a modified parade that will allow for social distancing.

Seventh-grader Zapata suggested that the parade take an alternate route down borough streets, allowing residents to view the parade while social distancing from their front lawns. Because of her parade-saving idea, Mayor Kobylarz named Emma Zapata the honorary parade Grand Marshal. She and her family will ride in one of the fire trucks during the parade.

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Chatham Borough Mayor Thaddeus Kobylarz reads letter from Emma Zapata and his response

The Chatham Borough Volunteer Fire Department had canceled the parade in May due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Below are the letters exchanged between Emma Zapata and Mayor Kobylarz:

Dear Mayor Kobylarz,

After hearing the Fourth of July parade was canceled, I can only assume the rest of the town was as disappointed as I am. I know that this parade has always brought our town together and has been an annual tradition we all look forward too. I understand these difficult circumstances definitely makes it hard to have the parade to take place, but I have always been a problem solver and have been brainstorming about some possible ideas on how to make this work. There would have to be some rules and guidelines, but I believe we could still make the parade happen. For example, we could have the parade come down each street in the borough this way everyone can stay in their yards and follow the social distancing restrictions. I know our Township neighbors would also like to partake and we could have a rule stating that 10 people or less could gather in our neighbor's yards. Once again I completely understand the circumstances, but I would love to give some hope and strength to our town in this difficult time.

Dear Emma,

Thank you so much for your wonderful suggestion. Please forgive the delay in my response. I am happy to inform you that I have discussed this matter with both our Borough Administrator (Steve Williams) and Fire Chief (Jeff Fricke) and we think your proposal is a terrific one. In fact, we'd like to implement your idea and will be discussing it further over the next few days to determine how exactly the Borough should do so. I will email you again with the plan so that you may look it over and offer your comments. 

This, of course, is a very long way of saying, yes, Chatham Borough will put on a parade along the lines of your suggestion. Moreover, we will likely add to it by including a few police cars and EMS vehicles as well. The idea here is that we should recognize and honor all of our first responders for stepping so marvelously during the present public health emergency. I do hope you agree.

The last thing I'd like to say is we want to recognize you for coming up with this fantastic idea by inviting you and your family to ride in one of the fire vehicles that will parade through town on July 4th. Naturally, social distancing rules will be fully respected. But I very much would like everyone to know that it is because of your very impressive problem solving skills that the Chatham Borough will have a Fourth of July parade after all this year.

As I've just said, I will get back to you in the coming days with the parade plan that we devise. In the meantime please know how truly grateful I am for you having come up with this wonderful idea. I'll be in touch again soon. 

Best wishes,

Mayor Thad

Mayor followed up with a letter that confirms the revival of the parade and the naming of Zapata as the Grand Marshal

Dear Emma,

I write to you to confirm that we will be going ahead with your proposal for an alternative parade that will travel down the Borough's streets on July 4th. In fact, I will be announcing this at tomorrow's (Monday's) Borough Council meeting. The Fire Department, Police Department, Emergency Squad, and Department of Public Works will all participate. You and your family will be invited to ride on one of the fire engines. Moreover, I will be issuing a Mayoral Proclamation naming you as the Honorary Parade Grand Marshal for your service to Chatham Borough in making sure that we do indeed have a parade this year.

Later on this week (probably Thursday) I'd like to have a Zoom meeting with you and your parents to go over the plans for the parade. Also in attendance will be the Borough Administrator, the Fire Chief, the Police Chief, the Emergency Squad Director, the Director of Public Works, and one or two Council members. I will propose a time in the next few days.

I will be in touch again very soon about scheduling the Zoom meeting. Thank you again for your help on this matter. We are all very grateful!

Best wishes, 

Mayor Thad