One week from today, the streets of Fenton will be lined with thousands of people to watch the annual . This event represents small-town America more than any other and each year, whether I’m watching the parade or driving in it, I can’t help but wish my family and friends in larger cities around the country could see this wonderful, local celebration of Independence Day.
The parade doesn’t change much from year to year, but if even one unit was missing – even the politicians hoping to be elected or re-elected in the fall - I would be highly disappointed.
Fenton’s Fourth of July Parade is traditionally led off by the and is (not necessarily in this order) followed by the Fenton VFW, the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, Michigan State Police, the and the parade grand marshal.
Many area churches are represented in the parade with creative floats intended to highlight their activities, such as vacation Bible school and their many other positive events and programs for local youth.
Countless area businesses regale the crowds with their creative units, such as performances by with its annual shopping cart dance routine, and briefcase brigade.The Michigan Renaissance Festival performers make an appearance each year, giving an advance glimpse into what visitors can expect when that festival begins in mid-August.
Fenton and other area schools and their various activities are also featured in the Fourth of July Parade.
Local civic and service organizations are also well-represented, highlighting their many good works and activities. This year I will be driving in the parade with my friend and fellow Fenton Area Optimist Club member, Cherie Smith. We will be promoting the club’s newest program called “Threads for Kids,” an effort to collect donations of T-shirts, socks, gym shoes and gently used jeans for middle school-aged children in the , and Linden school districts. The program will kick off this fall when school begins.
There are usually close to 200 units in Fenton’s Fourth of July Parade, it’s impossible to name them all. It takes nearly two hours from beginning to the end, when the is joined by trucks from the and Linden fire departments bring up the rear.
Thousands of children are delighted by the candy and other fun items tossed to them from nearly every unit.
Throughout the parade, there is a lot of flag-waving and cheering. I don’t believe anyone walks away without feeling a great sense of pride in our community and our country.
This year will be more difficult for me emotionally. One of the things I always enjoyed was watching the parade, sitting in front of home, located on Shiawassee, between Adelaide and Park Street. Or, if I was driving in the parade, waving at Jan and her family and friends as we passed by her home.
Jan was a long-time charter member of the Fenton Freedom Festival Committee and very proud of the many activities involved with the festival, including the parade. In 2009, she was selected to serve as the grand marshal for the Fourth of July Parade. I had the honor and pleasure of being asked to say a few words about Jan at the Grand Marshal Reception at the . The reception is held a night or two before the parade, just after the that kicks off the festival.
Jan, a long-time Fenton journalist and the features editor for the , died a few months ago. She was a good friend and a wonderful person. Although she won’t be celebrating the Fourth of July with us in person, I am confident that she will be there in spirit.
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!