I wasn’t sure how much I’d like a night parade.
I’m a traditionalist, and 4th of July parades are traditionally in the morning. In most communities, you start your Independence Day with a parade, then head off to engage in other celebrations and traditions for the remainder of the day. In Huntsville, the parade was moved to the evening in 2020 because of covid. It worked so well that Mayor Dennis Jeffers and his team decided to leave it in the evening.
From a purely selfish perspective, a night parade works well for me. For the past 20 years, I’ve headed to Huntsville to cover the parade early in the day, then headed back to Huntsville in the evening to snap some photos as the crowd rolls in and to cover the fireworks. With the parade in the evening, I can cover it all in one fell swoop, freeing up the rest of the day for more relaxing activities.
But, still, tradition and everything. An evening parade just doesn’t feel right.
After two years, I can’t be the first to say it, but I can be next in line to say it: I hope the Town of Huntsville leaves this parade in the evening forever!
A night parade just works better. It’s slightly cooler in the evening than it is around lunch time, and there’s just enough time between the parade and the fireworks — always the two main draws of the Firemen’s Fourth Festival — to enjoy a funnel cake and some socializing on the mall before settling in for the festival’s grand finale.
It appears that most people would agree. The crowd that lined Baker Highway and Court Street for Sunday evening’s parade was the biggest that I can ever recall for a 4th of July parade in Huntsville.
The weather has a lot to do with it, obviously. In 2013, the Independence Day parade stepped off in the pouring rain and there couldn’t have been more than two dozen people waiting to see it around the intersection of Baker Highway and Court Street. I remember that parade well because it was the day of my grandfather’s funeral.
By contrast, the weather was beautiful — almost perfect, in fact — for this year’s festival. It was the best 4th of July weather we’ve had in a very long time.
But, if we’re being honest, there have been years with great weather and only a lightly scattered crowd along the parade route. The crowd on hand for Sunday’s parade more closely resembled the Scott County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas parade in Oneida.
I knew the parade was going to be a success when I rolled into Huntsville at 6 p.m. Sunday and traffic from Huntsville Fire Department’s fundraising roadblock was backed up well around Byrd’s Curve on Baker Highway to the west. And over the next 60 minutes, people continued to funnel into town, then just kept coming as the fireworks drew nearer.
The mall wasn’t as packed as it is some years as the sun goes down. That was by design. Mayor Jeffers and his team eliminated live entertainment from this year’s event in an effort to avoid overcrowding the mall, with covid still a concern. If a crowded mall is your thing, don’t fret. Next year is an election year!
Carnival or no carnival, live entertainment or no live entertainment, the 2021 Firemen’s Fourth Festival was quite a success. The weather cooperated, and folks turned out in large numbers to paint downtown Huntsville in great swaths of red, white and blue to celebrate America’s independence.
And maybe it’s time for a new tradition. Evening parades. It was a thing of beauty.