The oldest Fourth of July parade took place once again this past Wednesday in Bristol, Rhode Island. The parade is 227 years old and is known throughout the country and the world. This year, as with many others, it attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators. Many famous bands and drum corps are included in the parade and come from all around the country. Chief Marshal Antonio (Tony) Teixeira was chosen to lead the marchers and floats throughout the parade route, which started on the corner of Hope Street and Chestnut on Route 114. Parade goers also had the opportunity to meet the Miss USA winner and Rhode Island native Olivia Culpo. For those who weren’t able to be at the parade, but reside in the Rhode Island area, they were able watch the the festivities on ABC 6.
The parade has a very interesting and long history. It was established in 1785 as a show of simple patriotic exercises by Rev. Henry Wight of the First Congregational Church and Veteran of the Revolutionary War. Later, he expanded its importance and established the parade as we know it today. The parade is now organized by a special Bristol Fourth of July Committee.
The events that lead up to the parade began back on June 14th, Flag Day, beginning with outdoor concerts, soap-box races, and a fire fighters muster at Independence Park. The celebration climaxed with the oldest parade in the country. The military (including a Navy ship), civic organizations, as well as the fire department, take part in the event. Santa Claus even comes to participate in the parade even though Christmas is six months down the road. This massive event regularly draws 200,000 people, and due its popularity, Bristol has been given the nickname “America’s most patriotic town.”
While rare, the parade has been canceled several times. However, there has been some sort of celebration every Fourth of July since the tradition began.
It’s great to see that a tradition has been carried forward for 227 years, which today, is a very rare feat. Because of this tradition, people can feel a wonderful sense of patriotism and pride in both their city and their nation. Hopefully, this Bristol celebration will continue for years to come.