BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — For the 236th consecutive year, the country’s oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration will go on in Bristol this year.
There were patriotic exercises last year, but the entire celebration had to be scaled back due to the pandemic. The town was able to keep their important tradition alive with a smaller vehicle-only parade.
“Oh my goodness we are so excited and the energy is ridiculous,” Committee Chairwoman Michelle Martins said. “My email, phone, Facebook page, and everyone is reaching out asking where they can park and what’s going on and when are the dates.”
First held in 1785, the parade has grown in popularity and size over the years. This year the parade will be on Monday, July 5 at 10:30 a.m. since July 4 falls on a Sunday.
Additionally, the carnival on the Town Common will run from June 23 through July 5, fireworks over the Bristol Harbor will be Sunday, July 4 at 9:30 p.m., and the free concert series will be from June 20 through July 30 at a new location this year: Roger Williams University.
“Roger Williams University has always been a partner with the committee so, in lieu of a cash sponsorship, they have hosted us for the concert series, which is great,” Martins said. “They have staff and security for us and it’s going to take place on the north entrance and it’s on the rugby fields on the right side.”
The change in location is due to previous COVID restrictions in place that prevented them from having the concerts at Independence Park. Even though those restrictions have since been lifted, organizers say they didn’t have enough time to move the entire production back.
“The backdrop this year is going to be the harbor so it’s going to be beautiful,” Martins continued.
The parking lot will have a 500 car capacity, which is where the vendors will be, and there will also be golf carts this year, according to Martins, to help transport disabled people from the parking area to the concert fields.
One small change to the parade this year is that there could be fewer marching bands.
“A lot of the problem was a lot of marching bands didn’t have the chance to rehearse during COVID and they weren’t together,” Martins said. “If some of those organizations can get together and want to come, we will have them in, and we would love to have them.”
According to Martins, everybody is ready to come together and celebrate.
“It’s safe, we have vaccines, and testing is available, and everyone is excited to go forward,” she said. “We are glad the veteran’s section is back and that they are able to participate in the parade because many of the vets in that age group were in the group that was at risk last year so they are biting at the bit to come back and join us as well.”