SALEM -- The question coming up in Salem, as the town plans its annual Fourth of July Parade, one of the region’s grandest, is just what the meaning of “redneck” is.

The parade annually draws dozens of floats designed around a specific theme, and this year’s theme is “Redneck Summer.”

Steven Saunders, the third assistant chief of the Salem Fire Department who is in charge of publicity for the parade, said the term is not offensive.

“A redneck is a hillbilly, and a lot of people could fit into that,” he said, adding the term also has a connection to farming. “I think it’s comical that people are upset, but it’s really only a few people.”

According to Webster’s College Dictionary, the term is derived “from the characteristic sunburned neck acquired in the fields by farm laborers.”

The dictionary goes on to define the word as slang for “a poor, white, rural Southerner, often specifically one regarded as ignorant, bigoted, violent, etc.; often a derogatory term.”

The term seems to have a milder meaning in Washington County. Some schools use “Redneck Day” as one of their theme days during homecoming week.

Town Supervisor Seth Pitts, who is in the fire department but was not involved in choosing the theme, made the agricultural connection.

“From what I understand, the term came from the south, where the farmers would work in the fields with their horses and they would have their reins over their necks, and it would be hot, and the leather would sweat and turn their necks red,” he said. “I don’t see the offensiveness of it.”

Mary Greene, who lives in a nearby town, does see it as offensive, and she has spoken to members of the department and to Pitts to let them know her opinion.

“It’s just disturbing that this is their theme. Redneck does not have such a good connotation,” she said. “This parade is a big, big deal, and you are going to have groups trying to have the best redneck float. To me, that defies the imagination.”

Saunders said the parade can draw up to 100 elements, including floats, fire and EMS equipment, youth groups, bands and other marchers.

“It’s been going down a little bit, so we decided to spice it up a little bit,” he said. “That’s why we went with this theme,”

Saunders said he could not remember last year’s theme, but said that two years ago, the theme was “Mardi Gras.”

Pitts said everyone is entitled to their opinion and that some people do see racist associations in the term, but not in Salem.

“Everyone has a different way of seeing things,” Pitts said. “Are people going to show up in white sheets because the theme is ‘Redneck Summer?’ No, not in Salem.”

Things have been busy for the department, which is raising funds to build a new firehouse on Route 22. Last weekend, the department held its first Tour De Flame, a series of bicycle rides to raise money for the project.

The parade is scheduled for July 4. It lines up at 4 p.m. at Holy Cross Church on North Main Street and starts at 5 p.m., going down Main Street to Park Place and onto the carnival grounds on Archibald Street.

The carnival will start at 6 p.m. July 2 and 3. There will be food, games and raffles. There will be a fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. July 4 with a rain date of 9 p.m. July 5. The cake booth will be open all three nights and is seeking donations of baked goods.

(22) comments

Gotta luv it

Yee haw I say I can't wait


You just might be a redneck if...

- You choose "Redneck Summer" as the theme for your Fourth of July parade.
- If you think it's comical that some folks are upset that you chose "Redneck Summer."
- If you feel that a lot of people could be labeled 'redneck.'
- If you believe 'redneck' is not a derogatory term.


Oh good Lord.


Yes Mr Pitts, the term does come from the South and it usually means bigoted, intolerant and hateful of those who are different.
Sure sure it's just a parade, and everyone gets too upset over little things, and 'We's just hasin us some fun,' and yadda yadda.
Those floats will be uncivilised, uncouth, desperate attempts to outdo the crassness of those before.
BAD decision -- we should strive for better, given all the stupidity and laziness prevalent throughout our dumbed-down culture.


Again that could be applied to anyone, redneck or not.

Ur GFn Me

The term 'redneck' also implies small-mindedness and ignorance. Interesting to know how Salem sees itself. Nice job, third assistant fire chief. Way to sell your community to the region.


Ignorance and small-mindedness could imply anyone.

Ur GFn Me

Personally, I'll be at the Phish show at SPAC. Bout as far from 'redneck' as you can get! God Bless America!


This is harmful to the image of southern Washington county, which while rural and agricultural, has a significant progressive and cultural component that is absolutely vital to its tourism economy. Not a smart move Salem.


If the parade theme was a derogatory term for any other group of people other than poor white people, there would be outrage. But because it is politically correct to poke fun at poor whites and not any other gropu of people, this theme is deemed okay? Not cool. Not acceptable.


When did everyone become so thin skinned? You can't even hold a conversation these days without offending someone.


Let's look on the bright side. At least they didn't go with their second choice: "Redskin Summer."


I'm not from your area or even the state, but it was on my local news website. I find almost everything the other posters write derogatory and offensive. Redneck does NOT mean poor white people, white trash IS poor white people!!! Where do you think 99% of your meat and vegetables come from?... REDNECKS!!! Hard working ones. It just shows that this country and people's small-mindedness hasn't changed. I suppose you get offended by someone calling themselves a Christian, democrat, republican, or even a New Yorker. OUR country was founded and built by God fearing rednecks. Rednecks come from ALL walks of life and ages. Rednecks play hard and work even harder. I am a Redneck... and damn proud of it!!!




Anyone that thinks the rednecks are bigoted, ignorant, etc are the ones that are labeling it that way...they are the ones that are narrow minded..


OK, what is all the ruckus about? Who is coming? Who is going to see all the stupid insipid floats that will be in this thing. Before you all sit in your lazy boys and judge, get off yer buts and head to Salem and submit a float, show that not only are rednecks ignorant and bigoted, but they can be smart and intelligent, and just live in Washington County. By the way I am a very successful engineer, and grew up and was educated at Washington Academy, you figure out where it is! As for Mary Green, from Greenwich, I have gone to the Salem fourth of July parade, for goin on 50 years, I haven’t seen her at a single parade, BINGO, here are her 15 minutes of fame!


Jef Foxworthy is the best selling comedian in the USA and no one seems upset about his most famous jokes about rednecks. In fact, no matter how you want to define the term, it is the rednecks of America who laugh the hardest, watch his shows and movies, buy his albums. It is Country Humor and that is exactly what America's Birthday in Salem and Washington County should be all about. I bet they will have the biggest crowd ever and everybody will have a good old fashioned, knee-slappin' time with American apple pie, country lemonade, and maybe even a little moonshine and the friendly rednecks of Salem will even welcome city slickers to see their always great fireworks show. Y'all come. I grew up in Washington County, and I'll be back for the 4th.


Well I’m just saying go to the Salem Vol. Fire Dept’s website page and like us as long as this “REDNECK SUMMER” parade theme as garnered so much attention. We are at 255 likes as of this writing.


I live in the hills of Salem, on a small farm, and I do not consider myself a "redneck." I am well-educated, well-read, and a professional. My first reaction when I heard about the parade's theme was that Salem could do much, much better to show itself off than using a derogatory term to "spice up" the parade. I only need to think of one particular float, complete with toilet and vulgar language at a neighboring town's parade to imagine what a "redneck" float might look like. Salem, we're better than this.

The Bleeb

I am a well-educated, well-read professional as well. But I grew up there. I bought a large farm in order to reconnect with, and engage in, the hard work and discipline I grew up with. My neck is red because of it, and I take no offense to being called a redneck.

As a well-read individual, perhaps focusing on the fading precision of the English language would ease your concern, as recent abominations of the traditional meanings of words only serve to narrow it's breadth. For instance, what one word would be as descriptive as the original definition of "redneck"? There are many adjectives and nouns available with which to describe its adulterated definition.


Really? Sometimes I am ashamed that I live in Salem. While I am sure that Steve and Co seem to think this is all "Aw Shucks" fun maybe they should have looked around and noticed that this is NOT a complimentary term for lots of people.

And I do laugh at the Redneck Comedy people.

But it has a time and place and I am pretty sure that Salem 2014 is NOT that time or place.

There were plenty of OTHER themes that could have been chosen that actually reflect what Salem and the County are all about.

And Yes before you drink that next glass of milk or have a hunk of cheese or load up your baked potato---think that this MIGHT have been produced right here in Washington County by hard working FARMERS---who don't deserve to be called any names. To survive as a farmer today takes more brains than it ever has a most of these people work very HARD to maintain FAMILY FARMS despite recent economic down turns.

What was that old saying:::

Don't talk about farmers with your mouths full.


Mary Greens isn't even in the Town of Salem...

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