Members of American Legion Post No. 80 wave to the crowd on Kansas Avenue in the 2023 Fourth of July parade. This year’s parade is less than two weeks away, and excitement is building for the celebration. L&T file photo/Elly Grimm

ELLY GRIMM

    • Leader & Times

 

The 4th of July holiday is right around the corner, and preparations are well under way for this year’s parade.

The 2024 4th of July parade will start at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, July 4, and the route will again start on Trail Street, move north, and end at Light Park on 11th Street. As coordinator Earl Watt tells it, there is a lot of excitement for this year’s festivities.

“It’s free to participate, it’s free to come and be a spectator, and it’s a great way to start the day of the 4th of July,” Watt said. “The day starts with the parade, and I know there will be some activities that afternoon by Brent Gould Field to help build the hype around the Bee Jays baseball game, which will be at 7 p.m. against Dodge City, and then the postgame fireworks show will conclude everything.”

Watt said the parade is a perfect way to begin the holiday.

“The best part of the 4th of July parade, as a whole, is the Bee Jays have done such a great job, and the Bee Jays board, of taking care of the evening festivities ever since I was young. Baseball, the 4th of July and fireworks have always been a winning combination and family tradition throughout Liberal, and the Bee Jays organization has always done a wonderful job with that part,” Watt said. “But the question is ‘What should we do until then?’ and now, we’ve helped fill in some of the gaps of that day by starting off with the parade, and then some of the local churches and other groups have done some afternoon activities by the baseball field, so all of that partnership makes for a full day, which is great. Another part of why we do the parade is we want to encourage people to stay in town for the holiday. I know some people use holidays as a convenient time to sneak out of town, but we want people to stay right here in town. Our fireworks display is second to none, especially for a community our size. The 4th of July Bee Jays game sees the best home crowd of the season, and it’s great seeing everyone come out and show their support for the team. We do a great job celebrating Pancake Day and Homecoming and those other special events, but the birth of the U.S. on the 4th of July means so much to so many, and after not having a parade to commemorate that day for so long, we’re happy to have gotten it started again. And the public seems to love it because we ended up with 50 float entries last year, so we’re clearly doing something right. This parade, like the other parades, belongs to the community – we might help coordinate and sponsor it, but everything comes down to the community’s pride. This parade is just another extension of the pride shown by the people of Liberal.”

Float entries are still being accepted, and with high expectations set, Watt said he hopes to see a lot of the community turn out and see everything on hand.

“One of the reasons we have the parade kind of early is so people don’t get super hot, but it’s also late enough so people can still sleep in a little bit and not rush downtown. It’s important for people to feel some community pride and some national pride,” Watt said. “I think about Seymour Rogers being the story of the American Dream – he came out here, dug his well, and then after he was settled in enough, he was giving the water away for free to travelers. That’s a truly American story. Liberal has a large immigrant community, and they’re here because they want to have a piece of the American Dream and have the same chance of success and opportunity. Whether you came on a boat 250 years ago or even just last week, that commitment to the American Dream is no different, and the 4th of July is the day to celebrate why we get the chance to be free and speak our minds and challenge the government when it’s doing wrong. That’s why this community is here, because people cared enough to go after what they wanted, and now we get to live that legacy and continue the race. Liberal is completely representative of living the American Dream, whether you’ve been here for multiple generations or less than a month.”

With the parade still being rather new for the community, Watt said the response so far has been great.

“We’ve received a huge response from the community with the 4th of July parade these past three years, and that’s a testament to the community and how much they care,” Watt said. “One of the main reasons we looked into having a 4th of July parade was because there had been multiple people asking ‘Why don’t we have a 4th of July parade?’ and the main reason was because no one was stepping up to make it happen, and sometimes that someone has to be you. The Sons of the American Revolution thought if anyone should start such an event, it should be us, so we got the ball rolling to start the committee. At that same time, Doug Munsell had approached me and asked about doing a day in the park on the 4th of July, and I told him what a coincidence it was since we’d just discussed the parade at the Sons of the American Revolution meeting the night before, and we ended up coming together. So there were people thinking about doing something, and the energy/desire was there, it just needed that little extra spark to get going and once that happened, everything just got unleashed. People wanted to celebrate the 4th of July, and that’s why we got such a big response last year and our inaugural year before that in such a short period of time.”

Overall, Watt said, he hopes this year’s parade will be just as successful as the past couple years.

“Parades are as American as apple pie, and even the Founding Fathers said the 4th of July should be remembered with games and celebration and picnics from coast to coast forever,” Watt said. “This is our chance to be part of that American Story, that we’re still celebrating the courage the Founding Fathers showed to the strongest empire at the time how we’d make our own rules and govern our own people. The 4th of July stands for not just the American Revolution, but also the human revolution as far as people being able to govern themselves without a monarchy. Here we are almost 250 years later, and there have been some dicey times, but we still find a way to make things work as far as governing ourselves, and we always want to make sure we remember the Declaration of Independence.”

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15th July, 2024 - 19:14
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