BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — One of the biggest, oldest traditions and tourist attractions in the state of Rhode Island is shrinking by a little bit.
The Bristol Fourth of July Committee voted Wednesday to shorten the town’s annual Fourth of July Parade. Instead of floats and marchers traversing about 2.4 miles, the parade route will be just under two miles, starting with the 231st parade in July.
“We are trying to bring it back to the traditional parade route, which allows opportunity for exciting changes,” said Parade Committee chair Fran O’Donnell. “It’s not positive with everybody, but I anticipated that. People typically change.”
Forty-six committee members were in favor of the route change, with nine against and one abstention.
- On the Web: Bristol 4th of July Celebrations
The parade will step off at 10:30 a.m. at Washington, Hope and Thames Streets, the committee said. The remainder of the route will remain the same, continuing along Hope Street, turning left onto High Street at the Lobster Pot and ending in front of Reynolds School.
The town administrator, town council, police and fire chiefs support the change. “A shorter parade will be easier for law enforcement personnel to patrol and monitor and for first responders to react should an emergency arise,” Chief Josue Canario said in a news release Thursday.
Some in Bristol are questioning why the committee would vote to shorten the route, though.
“There are a lot of facts that need to be taken a look at. As I said, I don’t know all the facts, what I’ve heard, some of the things quite don’t make sense to me,” said Ethan Tucker. “I think the communication factor here needs to be addressed.”
The town’s celebrations date back to 1785 when Revolutionary War veteran Rev. Henry Wight of the First Congregational Church conducted the first “Patriotic Exercises.” The parade followed in the early 1800’s.
Today, parade attendance often tops 125,000 – in a town with a population of 25,000.
In July 2015, due to concerns over a terror plot involving a local high school, officers were more visible on the parade route, including with bomb-sniffing dogs. Alcohol and fireworks were also banned from the event.
A Facebook group titled Save the Bristol 4th Parade Route was created Thursday, and as of 4 p.m. had more than 2,500 followers.