There is a slideshow of all the images below in a Picasa Album.
We arrived in the USA on Feb 2001 so this is the 11th Independence day that we have celebrated here. Our first was in Boston - sitting somewhat bewildered on the edge of Storrow Drive with no view of the stage or the fireworks with the Boston Symphony Orchestra playing invisibly. What amazed me then (and still does today) was the calm family friendliness of this public event. No drunken louts, no threatening exchanges, just good (albeit heavily crowded) fun.
Since 2004 when we moved to the district that we now live in, we have been going to the fireworks display every alternate year on the night of the 3rd and the town parade every morning of the 4th. For the past three years we have been invited to a lavish breakfast hosted by the parents of a good friend of our boys.
This morning it was pouring with rain when wewoke at 7am and the forecast promised more rain until 1pm followed by thunderstorms in the afternoon. So it was a relief when we got to the breakfast to see that the rain was easing and the clouds lifting. A humid day for a parade to be sure but with everyone in high spirits, the first antique cars were greeted with great enthusiasm.
The town Parade in Manchester has a formula that it follows each year, I haven’t got it completely figured out because it is usually led by veterans of foreign wars and some military banners but this morning the old cars came by a good few minutes before the soldiers. These are followed by fire engines of all ages and sizes including one that had Smokey the Bear in it. It gave us an opportunity to see two American icons meet.
The townspeople get to see and greet their firefighters and those of neighboring towns. The firetrucks are fascinating to little boys but they have incredibly loud sirens and not everyone can manage the blaring and squawking as they pass.
Many of the people riding in the trucks and decorated floats of the parade carry bags of candy and beads that they throw onto the side of the road for the children standing on either side.
Today, after the firetrucks came the veterans and military banners.
America has voluntary service and the population are very respectful of the sacrifice that young adults make when they join the military so it is common for sections of the parade crowd to applaude as these men and women come by.
The town arranges for several marching bands to join in - this year there were two Highland Pipe bands, but in previous year there have been one or more of the elaborately clothed and colorful college marching bands that have several rows of members of the drum line and many brass instruments.
Some of the themed floats in the parade are good fun to watch as well. There is a smaller parade on the day before July 4th called the Horribles Parade which usually has themes that poke fun at recent news stories or figures in the community. This year two floats delivered commentary on the ongoing war between people who walk dogs on the beaches and those that want to ban the activity. Dogs are not allowed on the beaches between May and September in any case, but there is a lobby that wants to make it all year round on the most popular beach in the area. So this year the Nature Conservancy float had a poster that said “Open to dogs all year round” and there was a separate float made up of people in dog outfits with a parody of the protests - some signs advocating that humans should not be allowed on the beaches and that dogs should be sure to pick up after their humans.
My favorite part of the parade are the militia in period costume. The Minutemen who occasionally stop to fire their front-loading muskets. This year I didn’t have to run after them to get a photo of them firing.
The characters in these groups of militia are usually pretty colorful.
and make for good pictures.
The old bicycles followed the militia and this was the first year that I had seen a small penny farthing ridden by a little boy. These bicycles look pretty hard to ride and can’t be very comfortable.
The adult riders do get to stop a few times en route for some liquid refreshments. Uncle Sam thinks of these things.
Another feature of the parade is town school teams that did particularly well. They get to sit on the bed of a truck and wave to people lining the sidewalks. Since it is pretty hot on these days some of the parents prepare water filled balloons and water pistols to help cool them down. Here some of the local town team prepare to be soaked from above.
America is incredibly diverse and there are often parade participants from the West Indies, South America and any of the many European countries that have been the origin of American immigrants. This year we had some Spanish entertainment in the parade as well.
Another great small town parade.