By Cliff Radel
Enquirer staff writer
MOUNT WASHINGTON - On the Fourth of July, when America is at war, the Red, White and Blue takes on a brighter hue.
Across Greater Cincinnati Sunday, from Mount Washington's 83rd annual Fourth of July Parade to the day-long Red, White & Blue Ash bash of food, music and fireworks at the Blue Ash Sports Center, from events on the riverfront and at Riverbend to backyard cookouts and ice-cream socials, celebrants were aware of the meaning of the day.
"This is America's birthday" - No. 228 - "and my dad's" - No. 51 - said Lauren Wetterer, a 21-year-old University of Cincinnati junior. She's participated in Mount Washington's Independence Day parade for 20 years - first in a stroller and on Sunday, alongside a vintage VW Beetle.
As Wetterer spoke, she helped festoon the black bug convertible.
Co-sponsored by American Legion Post 484 and Faith Presbyterian Church, the parade offers a delicious slice of Americana. As Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken put it, "this parade is like a Norman Rockwell painting. It has everything."
Right you are, Mr. Mayor. The parade had:
Fourth festivities continue
NORTHSIDE: The annual Independence Day Parade and Festival is noon to 8 p.m. today. A paradebegins at noon on Hamilton Avenue and ends at Hoffner Park. The festival begins at the park after the parade.
MONTGOMERY: An Independence Day Parade at 10 a.m. today will wind down Cooper Road to Montgomery Road and end at Montgomery Park for a festival with music, kids' games, food and a pet show.
FORT THOMAS - A daylong festival, a parade, fireworks and a 5K race will all be part of the city's Independence Day celebration today. The YMCA Firecracker 5000 begins at 8 a.m. in Tower Park, 950 S. Fort Thomas Ave. The parade starts at 10:30 a.m. at Highlands High School, 2400 Memorial Parkway, and ends at Tower Park.
At 1 p.m., the Fort Thomas Business Association will host "A Festival For All Ages: 4th at the Fort" at Tower Park. A fireworks display at 10 p.m. will end the day.
Kids, dressed in stars and stripes togs, turning their bikes into visions of red, white and blue with training wheels.
Big crowds - "The biggest turnout," said Legion parade chairman Glenn Johnson, "in 15 years."
Politicians kissing babies, posing for photos, angling for votes.
Floats bearing happy riders tossing free candy and balloons.
Fire trucks wailing sirens, making children squirm with delight.
"We always come for the fire engines," said Kyle Williams of Anderson Township as he and his wife, Julie, kept an eye on their fire-engine happy son, Casey, and daughter, Kaylie.
The troops in Iraq were on Julie Williams' mind.
"Realizing what they doing over there," she said, "makes you realize how lucky we have it over here."
The parade's color guard came into view. Manned by members of Post 484, the guard marched down Beechmont Avenue, presenting the colors and wading into a wave of applause.
Men and women rose to doff their hats and place their hands over their hearts. Old Glory was passing by.
"That's showing respect to the flag and to the guys who fought for it so we could sit here and be free," Vietnam vet John Frick said as he returned his cap to his head.
Nearby, Hank Szanti adjusted his Uncle Sam hat crafted in the style of Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat.
The retired salesman said his taste in headgear represented the ideals embodied in the Fourth.
"It's all about freedom," he said. "We're free to wear or say whatever we want. All because of what happened in 1776. And what's happening now in Iraq."
For 25 Independence Days, Bill Berry wore an Uncle Sam hat and suit in Mount Washington's parade. The World War II veteran has since passed that honor to his fellow Legionnaire, Rolla Bailey.
As Post 484's historian, Berry recalled the thrill of "wearing that white beard and the red, white and blue costume and marching down street and waving to all of those people waving the flag back to you.
"Being Uncle Sam on the Fourth of July," he added, "is quite an honor. You are representing one hell of a country."
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