Marietta celebrates July Fourth
Independence Day 2014 included plenty of activities for the Marietta community, beginning with a parade downtown, and continuing with music, food, crafts, races and fireworks at the Washington County Fairgrounds.
Hundreds of people lined Marietta’s downtown streets in celebration of the nation’s 238th birthday during the city’s annual Fourth of July parade.
Victor Rodriguez, a 26-year U.S. Army veteran, brought his family to the parade and ceremonies at Armory Square Friday morning.
“We just moved here in December, and really enjoy living in Marietta,” he said. “I’ve lived in a lot of little towns across the country since I was in college. These small towns and their parades are what make the United States of America.”
Rodriguez said attending the Fourth of July parade with his children is an opportunity to share some of the nation’s history.
“They’ll ask questions about the things they see in the parade, and I get to tell them about 1776 and the Declaration of Independence,” he said.
Donna Miller of White Cottage, Ohio, took photos along the parade route Friday.
“Everyone seemed very respectful, I was impressed at how many people saluted the flag or put hands over their hearts as the parade passed by,” she said. “And I saw a lot of veterans, some disabled, who were saluting the flag along the parade route.”
Former city auditor Sherry Adams, 77, decided to march in this year’s parade with other alumni, twirling the baton she used during her days as a majorette at Marietta High School.
“It’s taken a beating over the years,” she said, noting the scarred rubber tips of the baton. “I became a majorette in the eighth grade and continued through high school when I graduated in 1955.”
Adams said this was her first time to march in the city’s Fourth of July parade along with the MHS Wall of Sound marching band, which was made up of current and former members for the first time this year.
“It was kind of hard keeping their pace at first,” she said. “I’m used to moving faster. I like to exercise and keep in shape, and I love walking the best.”
The parade ended at Armory Square on Front Street where Mayor Joe Matthews delivered a short address on the history of Independence Day.
“The Fourth of July is celebrated in all of the U.S. states and territories,” he said. “The first Independence Day celebration took place in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776, and has since been celebrated on July 4 each year. But it was not declared a legal holiday until 1941.”
Matthews read from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
Following the mayor’s remarks David Paige, dressed as his ancestor Marietta shipbuilder Commodore Abraham Whipple, fired a cannon salute to the nation’s birthday from the Armory Square lawn.
Across town, the gates opened at 10 a.m. for the Washington County Fairgrounds day-long Fourth of July celebration, which included plenty of food, a craft show, music, inflatable rides, ATV races, a demolition derby, and wrapped up with a fireworks display at 10 p.m.
“Hamburg Fireworks of Lancaster has provided the display for the last five years,” said Sandra Hickey, treasurer for the Washington County Fair Board.
The fireworks exhibition costs $5,000, but the board wanted to provide the display for the community again this year as it has during past Independence Days. Hickey said the board has received some donations to help defray the cost from Eramet Corp., People’s Bank, Pioneer Pipe, and ParMar Stores.
She said Friday’s activities started out a bit slow when the gates opened, but the crowd was expected to build for the 7 p.m. demolition derby and the fireworks display.
All-terrain vehicle races, sponsored by the Mineral Wells, W.Va., ATV Drag Racing Club, attracted a lot of attention at the grandstands throughout the morning and early afternoon.
Club member Steve Taylor said approximately 60 riders with modified ATV racers took part in Friday’s competition.
“There’s a $10 entry fee which goes for the cash prize to the top four riders in each of four categories,” he said.
Chris Moore of Marietta is also a member of the Mineral Wells club and has been riding in competition for several years.
“These are not ATVs you would ride in the woods,” he said. “They’re modified for racing and all include a ‘wheelie bar’ on the back to prevent them from flipping over. Safety is a key issue for these riders. We want them to have fun and be safe.”
Kym Yeager of Circleville has been riding in ATV competition for a year now with her husband, Doug Sr., and their son Doug Jr.
She rode a pink ATV racer called “It’s Pink” during Friday’s event.
“My daughter is a doctor at Cabell Huntington Hospital, and she rides in races, too,” Yeager said. “In my extended family we probably have 13 or 14 racing ATVs.”
The Yeagers race in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
Kym said one slight drawback at the fairgrounds track was the dust that kicks up when the ATVs take off for each 200-foot race that lasts only a few seconds.
“The dust can be pretty bad-I’ll probably be tasting it for a couple of days,” she said.
A host of crafters set up tables in the Junior Fair Building Friday, including Annette Clark from Ritchie County, W.Va., who displayed a variety of sewed and baked goods.
“This is my first time at the fairgrounds, but it hasn’t been too bad,” she said. “It was slow this morning, but people seem to be coming in spurts now.”
Margaret McCormick of Parkersburg was selling a variety of artwork.
“It’s been fairly slow today, but for the amount of people who have been through, I’ve done pretty well,” she said.
Fair board member Richard Henthorn said the Fourth of July celebration at the fairgrounds used to be a three-day affair that included carnival rides and a midway, but providing the rides became too expensive for the board, and amusement companies were not interested in setting up for just one day.
“I doubt we’ll see Fourth of July carnival rides at the fairgrounds again, unless people are willing to pay $10 to $15 at the gate,” he said.