By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – At a recent press conference at City Hall, it was a unanimous consensus that the selections of this year's theme and grand marshal for the 62nd annual Marlborough Labor Day Parade are considered perfectly matched by city officials and the parade committee, including City Council President Patricia Pope.
“When we decided that the theme of the parade was going to be the “Spirit of Marlborough,” it was a no-brainer for the committee,” she said. “Bob Kays is the spirit of Marlborough.”
Kays has been the longtime chair of the community's foremost fundraisers including the Marlborough-Hudson Relay for Life, which benefits the American Cancer Society, and Evening of Giving, which supports Roland's House, a temporary emergency shelter.
Mayor Arthur Vigeant relayed that he became aware of Kays when he received the Humanitarian of the Year Award in 1992 from then Mayor Michael Hogan.
“Bob has stayed in the forefront, doing all these events year after year,” Vigeant said.
The Humanitarian Award is the highlight of the Mayor's Charity Ball, which Kays has co-chaired for many inaugural years. The event's proceeds help residents in need of financial assistance. In 2010, then Mayor Nancy Stevens introduced a new honor: the first Lifetime Community Service Award and presented it to Kays. His community service and good citizenship earned him last year's Good Scout Award from the Boy Scouts” Knox Trail Council.
City Councilor Donald Landers, also a parade committee member, shared his thoughts of Kays.
“When I think of Bob Kays, I think of the Relay for Life, but I also think of the Marlborough Shamrocks,” he said. “He really put us on the map, as far as semi-pro football.”
Kays was the owner of the semi-pro and minor league football team from 1978 to 2007. The Shamrocks won the National Championship six times.
Parade Director Ed Thurber expressed that he felt having Kays as grand marshal is long overdue.
“Bob has done a tremendous amount of volunteer work for the city and he gets nothing except enjoyment out of it,” Thurber said.
According to Kays, he's in good company when it comes to eager volunteers.
“I's one of many fundraisers in the city,” Kays said. “I'se found this city to be extremely generous for causes to raise money for people in need.”
Following its traditional route, the parade will be held Monday, Sept. 2, starting at noon. This year's parade will feature over 130 marching units and local political candidates.
Among the returning favorites will be the Clydesdale horses, and the Shriners” clowns and fire brigade. Returning for the second year will be the UMass Lowell Marching Band. The Marlborough High School cheerleaders will help carry banners.
Thurber noted that the parade offers residents of surrounding communities the opportunity to experience the spirit of Marlborough.
“A huge number of people from outside of Marlborough come to see the parade as well,” he said. “Many set up their chairs along the road a day or two ahead.”
Spectators wishing to claim a prime spot can arrive at 9 a.m. for the Lions Club's annual Bed Race on Main Street. Businesses, organizations and community leaders will sponsor teams of four runners pushing hospital beds to the finish line at City Hall. Proceeds go to the club's ongoing charitable endeavors.
Kays recalled his favorite Labor Day memory, when Shamrocks football players competed in the Bed Race for several years.
“We had all these guys doing the Bed Race who were in great shape,” Kays said. “Nobody could beat us, so the Lions Club pleaded with us not to get in the race the following years.”