Like all Bristolians, my family LIVES for The Bristol Fourth of July Celebration!Â If you have never taken your family to experience The Bristol Fourth of July Celebration you are missing out on some of the best patriotic free family fun. Â The Bristol Fourth of July Celebration is weeks of events that all lead up to the main event, which of course is the oldest Fourth of July Parade in the nation. The events include a carnival, concerts, an orange crate derby, pageants, fireworks, classic cars, and a drum and bugle corps competition.Â This will be the 228th year of the Fourth of July, Military, Civic and Fireman’s parade.
Bristol, the hometown of the parade, has been named the most patriotic town in the nation and for good reason. The lines in the road are painted red, white and blue. The homes that line the parade route are covered with stars and stripes. The American Flag is flying in the wind almost every place you look. Patriotism is taken very seriously here so please do go overboard on the red, white and blue attire.
During the celebration this usually small quiet town becomes filled with families from all over the country. The sidewalks are filled with not only civilians but lots of servicemen and women in uniform. Tourists swoon in by boat, motorcycles and the East Bay Bike Path.
Nothing sounds sweeter than the noises from the hustle and bustle that comes from the Fourth. You will hear the symphony of motorcycles, the purrs of motor boats, squealing of children’s toy horns, the heckling of carnival game vendors, blasts of fireworks and the music from the concerts downtown.
For about two weeks leading up to the Fourth families gather with their blankets and fold up chairs at Independence Park.Â All is welcome to enjoy many free nights of music and dancing.Â A beautiful lit stage under a white tent blends into the background of the Bristol Harbor. When the music starts all the children run to the front of stage to get their boogie on.
During the show there are vendors set up along the walking path in the park selling ice cream, pizza and souvenirs.Â Be forewarned when it gets dark out glow items are sold. Hint, Independence Park is a great spot to watch the fireworks from on the 3rd of July.
The Rockwell Amusements Carnival is held at the same time of the concerts. The carnival grounds are located at the Bristol Town Common which is only a block or two away. Since we like to see the carnival lights at night we wait until it gets dark out to take a bike ride up to the carnival.
If you enjoy the music of Drum and Bugle Corps then you might want to go to the Summer Music Preview on the night of the 3rd. This is a band competition amongst bands from the US and Canada. It is held at the Mt. Hope High School Football Field. You can hear the boom of the drums all the way downtown.
Before you know it, it’s time for the main event, The Fourth of July Military, Civic and Fireman’s Parade. The parade in my family’s opinion, and we may be a bit biased, is the best event of the year! Thousands of people line Hope and High Street in Bristol in what looks like a sea of red, white and blue. Vendors will line the streets with balloons, poppers, stuffed animals and of course toy guns. Â All the children are dressed in their patriotic best and anxiously wait to hear the sound of the jets that fly overhead to signal the crowd the parade has started.
The Chief Marshal which is the most prestigious honor in Bristol leads the parade. This year happens to be a family friend of ours, Lou Cirillo Jr.
Obviously since it is the Military, Civic and Fireman’s parade there will be service men and women marching in the parade. Please do show your respect for our brave men and women.
The bands that competed on the night of the 3rd treat the spectators to incredible music and fun.Â They make stops throughout the parade route to perform and even interact with the people. Â Some of the best sites are the children with their toy horns playing along.
All the children’s faces light up when they see their favorite characters walk by.Â If the characters have time they will stop for a picture. The Budweiser Clydesdale horses are always a crowd favorite. They are enormous and command your attention. Other highlights of the parade include beautifully decorated floats and the public figures that sit atop classic convertible cars.Â Santa Claus usually closes the parade.
Bristol’s Fourth of July Celebration is a time where everyone is a friend. You can just about walk into any yard on the Fourth of July and be welcomed in.Â All the excitement and celebrating makes for some wonderful family memories. It is so sad when it’s over because it’s an entire year before the joy that Independence Day brings is felt again.
It seems we all become one family of Americans on the Fourth of July.
If you happen to go into Bristol to enjoy some of the events leading up to the parade I’d like to share some of our favorite family friendly places to grab some food. During the two weeks leading up to the Fourth expect the crowds to be a bit large.
Bristol House of Pizza - 55 State Street, Bristol RI 02809
If it’s a quick pizza and grinders you’re looking for, Bristol House of Pizza is theÂ Â Â place! It is located right in the heart of Downtown and has seating outside to people watch and offers a view of the harbor.
Tweet Balzano’s Family Restaurant - 180 Mt. Hope Ave., Bristol RI 02809
If it’s pasta and seafood you’re craving nothing beats Tweets. My personal favorite is the calamari. They are very generous with their portions.
Bristol Bagel Works - 420 Hope Street, Bristol RI 02809
If you’re in town earlier in the day and you are feeling like a bagel for breakfast or a bagel sandwich for lunch Bristol Bagel makes the BEST bagel around.Â This quaint little bagel shop sits right on the parade route and has tables and chairs outside.
photo credit: Nicole Estrella