Aussies sample Southold’s 4th

07/08/2010 12:00 AM |

Visitors from Australia on the steps of Southold United Methodist Church, from which they watched the Fourth of July parade on Sunday. They convened here to sample the best of small-town America, they said.

A group of 30 Australians nearly trumped native enthusiasm for the red, white, and blue during Southold Town’s annual 4th of July Parade on Sunday.

“We certainly look the part, don’t we?” said Melbourne resident Joan Hale, exposing a temporary tattoo of the letters “USA” on her upper arm just before the parade. Behind her, on the steps of Southold’s First Methodist Church, dozens more Australians waited eagerly for the parade to begin, bobbing balloons, waving American banners and later singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” with as much gusto as any American.

“We don’t have anything like your parades in Australia,” said Belinda Baker in a heavy Aussie accent. “It’s absolutely terrific.”

The group of Melbourne natives arrived on Long Island several days before the holiday to celebrate their friend Glenda Wilson’s 60th birthday. Ms. Wilson, a Melbourne resident who also owns a summer home in Glen Cove, lived full-time on Long Island with her husband Peter from 1995 to 2005. Though they lived in Glen Cove, they fell in love with Southold’s “small-town charm” and wanted their friends to experience it firsthand.

“We really just wanted them to be able to see what my husband and I have been able to enjoy for so many years,” Ms. Wilson said. “The simplicity of the North Fork, really — beautiful potato fields, the Sound, walking on the beach … I think it’s something that Australians should see. They could see all the big things, but I don’t think that’s what it’s all about.”

Ms. Wilson’s Australian gang, most of whom are staying in a hotel in Glen Cove, certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves during the parade. Some commented that the level of American patriotism displayed was “quite special.” In Australia, they said, national pride is not so common. Others said that Southold actually reminded them of their own hometown in Australia, where the wine country around Melbourne is well known.

“It’s all very countrified, isn’t it?” said Ms. Hale. “The parade is so very family-oriented, very community-oriented. Things like this are so important. We all live so insulated all the time in our homes, and we need to get out for stuff like this. It’s a very special day.”

Most of the group arrived separately about a week ago and have already toured Manhattan and other well-known New York attractions. After Sunday’s parade, they spent the afternoon barbecuing at Southold resident Pegi DeGraff’s home.

“We met Glenda many, many years ago, and she’s told us that our house happens to be her favorite place in the United States!” Ms. Degraff said, “I’m just astounded, and she loves to see the Southold parade. She says there’s nothing like it in Australia.”

One of Ms. Wilson’s friends, Warrwick Teasdale who has visited the East Coast many times during the past two decades, was in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. He said that experience made him appreciate his current trip to the states even more.

“It was one of the changing times in the world,” Mr. Teasdale said. “And we were there for it. We saw the planes fly in and the buildings crash to the ground … this has been a much happier time now, really happy. And we just love the East Coast. The people here are so friendly.”

Mr. Teasdale said that most Americans are typically fascinated by the same exact thing about Australians.

“It’s our voices that everybody out here seems to love,” he said. “‘Talk!’ they’ll say, ‘Just talk! Talk some more!’ They just love our accents for some reason.”

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