BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The country’s oldest continuous Fourth of July parade will still go on as planned in Bristol this year, but it will be a much smaller crowd than in years past due to the coronavirus.
Businesses along the parade route are concerned, telling Eyewitness News the smaller crowds will affect their bottom line.
Tammy Vincent, owner of The Sand Dollar, said her gift shop will take a significant hit by the lack of Rhode Island residents and tourists during this year’s parade.
“This is my busiest time of the year,” Vincent said. “The town is so different without having all the out-of-towners here, its sad.”
Two months ago, the Bristol Fourth of July Committee announced its plans to downsize the parade.
This year, there will be no marchers and all parade participants must be in a vehicle. The committee also encouraged only Bristol residents to attend the parade to keep the crowd small.
While Vincent said she understands the safety precautions, the local business community makes the most of their money that holiday week from tourists.
She said not having that additional income on top of the loss due to the closure of nonessential businesses will be detrimental to her and other business owners.
“I just reopened two weeks ago and I will only be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday right now, because like I said, there is nobody in town,” Vincent said.
Statesman Tavern owner Chris Kleyla tells Eyewitness News he agrees that a smaller crowd is not best for business, but is hoping for the best.
“Last year was awesome, it’s always rocking here around the Fourth of July, but I don’t really know about this year, a lot of the business owners we don’t know what to expect,” Kleyla said. “I’m happy that the parade is happening in some type of fashion. But I don’t really know what to expect as far as population. I have some employees that are concerned by it.”
The parade, which will take place on the Fourth of July itself, is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m., which is two hours earlier than usual in hopes of minimizing crowds.