Two birthdays — one marking our nation’s independence and another for the parade itself — will be celebrated on Saturday. It is the 50th anniversary of the storied processional of floats, bands, cheerleaders, drill teams, equestrian groups, vintage vehicles and assorted other entries that make up Arlington’s oldest continuous tradition, the 4th of July parade.
“What makes our parade special is that it started as a hometown event and has maintained that feeling for 50 years,” said Arlington 4th of July Association President Roxanne Thalman. “The parade association has received a tremendous amount of support for the 50th anniversary, and this should truly be the best parade yet.”
Said to be the largest parade in North Texas, the processional begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Mitchell St. and S. West St. on the UTA campus and winds its way through UTA’s College Park and the downtown Arlington area. Nearly 160 entries will pass by an expected crowd of 50,000 spectators lining the streets along the parade route.
The Knights of Columbus is among many participants with a long history of being in the parade, but the group holds the distinction of the only entry that has appeared for 50 consecutive years.
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Tony Fontanelli from the Knights said the group will have a marching unit of 30 4th degree knights in full regalia (tuxedo, cape, chapeau and sword) and another unit of Knights that march in red white and blue carrying a huge U.S. Garrison flag. Fontanelli said that the worldwide organization last year contributed over $170 million for community projects and worked 72 million volunteer hours.
Choosing the 50th parade to make their first public appearance will be a mounted unit comprised of Arlington Police Department officers. Three mounted officers will be escorting all the riding clubs participating in the parade —Cpl. Cliff Elliott and horse Buddy, Officer Tim Henz and horse Chubbs, and Detective Pam Gold and horse Opie — all in full uniform and horses in full police tack.
Elliott has worked for the past few years on organizing a volunteer mounted unit of officers who own their own horses. He explained that the APD had a full time mounted patrol back in the late 1980’s that was disbanded due to budget constraints and said the new mounted unit is an ancillary duty in addition to their assigned roles in the department similar to the honor guard specialty unit. The Mounted Unit will work special events throughout the city such as parades, festivals, and runs as needed.
“All officers and their mounts go through extensive training for this type patrol and police work. We hope to serve our citizens to the best of our ability and to make them feel safe in every way possible in Arlington, even doing this on a horse,” Elliott said.
Sure to be a crowd-pleaser will be the Moms Across America float featuring a victory garden dotted with farmers and children dressed as bumblebees along with famous charters such as Uncle Sam, Mother Nature, and Lady Liberty to portray the significance of American agriculture. Another special entry will be the float from Tarrant County College, also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
After gaining recognition for rescuing stranded motorists during last winter’s ice storms, the Chisholm Trail Jeep Club will make an appearance in the parade. And the always popular Wheeli-ing Elvi will zig zag along the parade route performing stunts and antics to thrill spectators.
Grand Marshalls of the parade are past members of the all-volunteer 4th of July Association. At the 1 p.m. awards ceremony in Knapp Heritage Park located at 201 W. Front St., winners of the Ruby Odom Hat Contest and various categories of parade entries will be announced.
Visit www.Arlington4th.org for more details about the parade.
Light Up Arlington is Friday
Start celebrating Independence Day on Friday with the 9th annual Light Up Arlington festivities in the downtown area. Attractions and activities for the whole family in two locations begin at 6 p.m. and wrap up at 10:30 p.m. after a fireworks display. Live music will be performed on three stages positioned around the festival boundaries.
“Due to increasing crowds and the challenge of construction at the old library building, we’ve had to change the layout of Light Up Arlington this year,” said Michael Debrecht, parks manager in charge of the festival. “We hope everyone will check out lightuparlington.com for all the changes, the schedule of events and the new map.”
Boomtown — at the northeast corner of Center and Border Streets (in the parking lot of the Wade Building) — will feature live music performances on a stage sponsored by First Baptist Church and radio station 92.1 Hank FM throughout the festival. Don’t fix dinner because a cadre of food trucks will be in this area with delicious meal offerings. For the kids: a petting zoo, bounce houses, face painting, and even artists providing temporary tattoos.
Meanwhile, over on the northwest corner of Abram and Pecan Streets, more fun awaits festival-goers at Firecracker Alley. In this section of the festival grounds, crowds will enjoy giving the kids a thrill during a ride on the miniature train along with other family-friendly activities. Food and beverages will be sold here, too.
The Grease Monkey is sponsoring a stage with continuous live music at their restaurant property at the corner of Center and Front Streets. And even more live music action is also available at the Levitt Pavilion.
The headliner band at the Levitt is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bluegrass Band, playing their unique blend of Beatles music with a bluegrass sound. The band will take the stage at 8:45 p.m. after the opening show at 7:30 p.m. starring singer/songwriter Brad Thompson.
The later show will take a break at 9:45 p.m. for the fireworks display, and the concert will resume around 10 p.m.