Grand Marshal Dan Gill waves to the crowd during the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

In Montclair over the last year, some honors and celebrations have been deferred because of the coronavirus pandemic — but Saturday’s Caravan for Heroes kept the community’s spirit of appreciation for those on the front lines alive.

The Montclair Celebrates committee cancelled its July 4 parade and picnic for the second year in a row in 2021. While there are no longer any state-mandated limitations on indoor or outdoor gatherings, organizers said the uncertainty around coronavirus restrictions in the months leading up to the event made planning impossible.

Instead: Montclair paid tribute to its front-line workers as well as businesses that played a key role in seeing the community through the pandemic with a caravan through the township’s streets Saturday, marking Independence Day weekend. The caravan traveled to the Wally Choice Center in Glenfield Park, where officials paid tribute to the man selected as grand marshal for 2020’s parade — Dan Gill, a Glenfield Middle School teacher for more than half a century.

Mayor Sean Spiller hugs Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes July 3, 2021. Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

In a video interview with Montclair Celebrates committee Vice President Tim Barr last year, Gill reflected on his lengthy career, the difficulties of remote learning, and what it means to make a connection with a student.




“As Maya Angelou said, people won’t remember you for what you did, but they’ll remember you for how you made them feel,” he said. “And that’s what every teacher should keep in mind. Although you think you’re teaching, you know, this wonderful lesson, say on the Revolutionary War, they’ll come back and say, ‘I remember the day you bent over and you split your pants.’ And, here’s the thing: And you laughed at yourself. And that taught them that — that’s OK. That’s what you do. You laugh at yourself.”

Barr said in the interview Gill, the father of County Commissioner and Montclair resident Brendan Gill, had a “fan base” that spanned decades.

See below the caravan photo gallery for more ways to celebrate the Fourth of July in and around Montclair.

The Caravan for Heroes travels on Valley Road on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
County Commissioner Brendan Gill and family wave from their car during the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Attendees cheer as the Caravan for Heroes passes Glenfield Park on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Attendees cheer as the Caravan for Heroes passes Glenfield Park on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
A woman films the approaching Caravan for Heroes July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
The Caravan for Heroes ends at Glenfield Park, July 3, 2021 (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Mayor Sean Spiller travels with the Caravan for Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
The Caravan for Heroes passes Glenfield Park on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
James Cotter leads the Caravan for Heroes on Maple Avenue July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
The Caravan for Heroes passes Park Street on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Charlie Barrett cheers on the Caravan for Heroes July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Staff, family and friends of the Moriaty Funeral Home cheer Caravan for Heroes from Park Street July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
A fire engine travels with the Caravan for Heroes through Watchung Plaza on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Felix Cotter travels with the Caravan for Heroes through Watchung Plaza on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
From left, Barbara Rudy, Jess and Juliana Piscitelli, Oriona Dolese and Alicia Giammella watch the Caravan for Heroes from Valley Road on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
The Caravan for Heroes travels on Valley Road on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Council member Bob Russo and Lori Price Abrams greet Dan Gill as he arrives at Glenfield Park at conclusion of the Caravan of Heroes. (PHOTO BY TONI MARTIN, COURTESY OF BOB RUSSO)

Other ways to celebrate the Fourth of July nearby:

• West Orange will hold an Independence Day celebration July 4 at West Orange High School, with a food truck festival from 1 to 9 p.m. and fireworks at dusk.

• In Millburn, a flag raising will take place at 9 a.m. in Taylor Park on Sunday, July 4. That will be followed at 10 a.m. by family fun events including a magician’s performance, Revolutionary War reenactments, a scavenger hunt and chalk decorating. There will be fireworks at the Millburn High School Football Field in the evening at about 9 p.m.

• There will be a fireworks celebration the evening of Sunday, July 4 at the James Caldwell High School baseball field in West Caldwell.

• Fireworks and a concert by The Infernos in Essex County Brookdale Park will be Friday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. The Infernos’ repertoire includes all genres of music including big band, oldies, Motown and today’s top chart busters. The concert and fireworks were rescheduled from July 1 due to inclement weather.

From left, Councilwoman Lori Price Abrams, Councilman Bob Russo, Grand Marshal Dan Gill, Mayor Sean Spiller, Councilman David Cummings, U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill and County Commissioner Brendan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Once neighbors, Samuel Debman, who graduated Glenfield School in 1935, sits next to Molly DeCarlo, who graduated from Glenfield in 1934 at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Grand Marshal Dan Gill applauds at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Samuel Debman, who graduated Glenfield School in 1935, sits next to Molly DeCarlo, who graduated from Glenfield in 1934, for a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Fourth Ward Councilman David Cummings expresses appreciation for Grand Marshal Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
The audience stands to applaud Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
From left, Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake and U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill attend a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Grand Marshal Dan Gill holds up a photograph of the 1913 graduating class of Glenfield School at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Grand Marshal Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
From left, emcee Toi Blount, James Cotter and Albert Pelham at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
The room applauds at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
County Commissioner Brendan Gill shares stories of growing up as the son of Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. Dan Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Glenfield Principal Erika Pierce hugs Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. Dan Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Glenfield Middle School Principal Erika Pierce thanks Dan Gill for his service at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. Dan Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Samuel Debnam, Glenfield Middle School graduate of 1935 at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Tim O’Brien, CEO of Mountainside Hospital, thanks Montclair at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021, saying, “You cared for our community and we are privileged to serve you.” (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
The crowd applauds at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes on July 3, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Mayor Sean Spiller thanks Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes July 3, 2021. Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake expresses her appreciation for Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes July 3, 2021. Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Assemblyman Thomas Giblin says Dan Gill has too many deeds to fit onto one scroll at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes July 3, 2021. Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Dan Gill shows his gift to his grandchildren at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes July 3, 2021. Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill presents a flag to Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes July 3, 2021. Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Representative Mikie Sherrill expresses her appreciation for Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes July 3, 2021. Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Representative Mikie Sherrill expresses her appreciation for Dan Gill at a ceremony after the Caravan of Heroes July 3, 2021. Gill, a teacher in Montclair for more than half a century, had been selected as grand marshal for Montclair’s 2020 July 4 parade before it was called off due to the pandemic. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)