BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Celebrating Independence Day will be extra special this year for one lifelong Bristolian.
WPRO’s Matt Allen was recently selected to serve as a division marshal in the country’s oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration.
The radio talk show host said he’s extremely grateful to have been chosen to lead the Freedom and Independence Division in the 236th annual parade.
He recalled the moment he received an email from Parade Chairman Charles McDonough asking whether he’d be interested.
“I saw the email and I had to stop,” Allen said. “I said ‘what?’ I got choked up, it’s a parade … I had to take a minute. I’m going to do this right? I have to say yes.”
Allen said growing up in Bristol is like living inside of a Norman Rockwell painting. While he comes from a working class family, he said it’s a great town to live in.
He also said he’s looking forward to walking in the parade alongside his 8-year-old son.
“I hope he remembers it,” Allen said. “It’s weird man. I know it’s stupid, but it’s kind of cool when you can share something like this with your kid.”
Allen said it’s not just about the parade, however. It’s about celebrating the country’s birthday, which is something he’s thankful he can do after last year’s parade was scaled down due to the pandemic.
“The parade is a thing. It’s a living, breathing thing, and it’s not just the parade,” Allen explained. “That’s the start of it, but it’s everything else around it. The patriotism, family and the events surrounding it. It’s the whole season.”
When asked what his favorite part of the parade is, he said “the performers, the bands and the veterans.”
“I get emotional when I see the POW/MIA floats that come by mostly from guys [who were] in the Vietnam War,” he added. “When I see the Vietnam veterans and how they were treated … we always make sure that in Bristol, they get welcomed home.”
The parade will take place on July 5 and is among several events the city has planned this year.