7 Weird, Offbeat Fourth of July Parades
By Suzanne Raga
Eating hot dogs, wearing patriotic clothing, and watching fireworks may be the quintessential Fourth of July experience, but some Americans celebrate Independence Day in zanier, more atypical ways. From a boom box parade to a pet parade, these seven offbeat, eccentric Fourth of July parades might make you reconsider how you spend the Fourth.
1. WILI BOOM BOX PARADE // WILLIMANTIC, CONNECTICUT
For the past 30 years, Willimantic, Connecticut has hosted an annual Boom Box Parade on July 4. Why boom boxes? Well, it was a matter of necessity: In 1986, no marching bands were available to perform in a Memorial Day parade, so the town had to get creative. Willimantic resident Kathleen Clark suggested that the local radio station, WILI, play marching band music while parade participants carry boom box radios tuned to WILI. Since the town’s first boom box parade—which happened on the Fourth of July rather than Memorial Day—thousands of people have celebrated Independence Day by wearing red, white, and blue and carrying a radio tuned to WILI.
2. PEACHTREE ROAD RACE // ATLANTA, GEORGIA
Rather than watch parade participants march or stand on a float, some Atlantans spend their Fourth of July morning watching 60,000 people run a 10k race. Started in 1970, the Peachtree Road Race is the largest 10k in the world. One hundred and fifty thousand spectators camp out around different spots of the race to watch and encourage the runners. And everyone celebrates both the Fourth of July and the end of the race at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.
3. MURRELLS INLET BOAT PARADE // MURRELLS INLET, SOUTH CAROLINA
Since 1984, residents of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina have celebrated Independence Day with a Boat Parade. Thousands of people gather to watch the boats (which are decorated with patriotic colors), eat food, and wait for the fireworks display. It costs just $5 to enter your boat in the parade, and the best-decorated boats get a prize. Due to high tide safety concerns, this year’s Fourth of July Boat Parade will be held, for the first time ever, on Saturday, July 2 instead.
4. PET PARADE // BEND, OREGON
If you’re an animal lover, you’ll probably love Bend, Oregon’s Fourth of July Pet Parade. Since the 1930s, kids and their pets have participated in this parade, which has included everything from horses, dogs, and goats to badgers, chickens, and baby coyotes. Some kids wear costumes and bring stuffed animals in lieu of a real animal, and there are water pools and shaded areas to make sure that the animals don’t overheat. More than 8000 people watch and participate in the annual Pet Parade.
5. MIDNIGHT PARADE // GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE
Because their parade begins at midnight, Gatlinburg, Tennessee boasts the “First Independence Day Parade In The Nation.” The Midnight Parade has occurred for over 40 years and despite its start time, attracts 80,000 spectators. The parade itself features marching bands and floats, and the spectators are seriously enthusiastic—some people camp out on the sidewalk the morning of July 3 to get a good spot.
6. KIDS’ PARADE // WEST SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
At the West Seattle Fourth of July Kids Parade, you won’t see big floats and bombastic marching bands. Instead, kids walk, ride scooters, or bike along the route, while parents push younger kids in strollers or wagons. Hundreds of families in West Seattle’s North Admiral neighborhood participate, and some kids decorate their bikes and wagons with red, white, and blue. After the parade, families can picnic and enter wheelbarrow and three-legged races at Hamilton Viewpoint Park.
7. WORLD’S SHORTEST PARADE // APTOS, CALIFORNIA
In Aptos, California, a town about 40 miles south of San Jose, you’ll find the World’s Shortest Parade, which spans a whopping two city blocks. Following a pancake breakfast, the 0.6-mile parade begins at 10 a.m. and features antique cars, floats under 13 feet high, bicyclists, walkers, music, and decorated trucks. After the parade, celebrators head to a Party in the Park to eat, play games, and celebrate Independence Day at Aptos Village Park.