This Reverse Parade Will Allow July Fourth Revelry From A Social Distance

Jun 30, 2020
Originally published on July 2, 2020 8:57 am

A typical Fourth of July usually has lots of flags, fireworks and parades. But this year is anything but typical as the pandemic has benched marching bands, banned floats, and sidelined spectators.

In Montgomery, Ohio — a small suburban Cincinnati community of about 10,000 where lawns are lush green and American flags abound — the annual Fourth of July parade is a long tradition. So when the pandemic threatened to cancel the annual parade, they decided to retool it.

This year Montgomery is having a reverse parade where the units are stationary and motorists drive through, says Julie Machon, as she stands in a driveway overlooking a large high school parking lot. Each of the 50 or so parade entrants will have their own space safely apart from each other, kind of like a big flea market, according to Machon, the city's recreation director. Spectators, however, will stay in their cars and weave up and down the aisles.

The fire department will suspend a giant American Flag from a ladder truck. The marching band is out but a small ensemble of students will play patriotic tunes. There will be classic cars, the American Legion and Purple Heart Veterans, and performers from the Cincinnati Circus Company, where Ali Weibel is creative director.

"We have jugglers who are going to be there, stilt walkers, bubble carts that are going to have bubbles going throughout the whole area, and then we have two big surprises that I'm not allowed to reveal just yet," Weibel says.

Social distancing recommendations mean that float builders are instead repurposing previous years' entries. For example, in a maintenance barn near the parking lot, city employees use a forklift to lower a wooden pergola onto a flatbed trailer lined with a carpet of artificial grass. They'll add red, white and blue bunting, streamers, flags and banners.

A few blocks away, Andy and Sarita Zilch and their daughters Maya and Nora typically gather with neighbors to watch the parade.

"I like getting candy from the parade floats," Maya says shyly.

Unfortunately for Maya, the reverse parade bans interaction, meaning no candy will be tossed into the crowd. Instead of placing chairs along the route, people will line up their cars and drive through the Independence Day reverse parade at 3 miles per hour.

"I heard about one mom that's going to bring candy with her and just throw it into the back seat every so often. Do you want me to do that?," Sarita Zilch asks her daughters, laughing lightly when Nora responds "No," with a head shake.

Even if her girls aren't convinced about the reverse parade, Zilch is excited and looking forward to seeing familiar faces.

"One benefit is we don't have to get there early and camp out and find a location that's in the shade, this will be nice and air conditioned and good," she says. " Honestly, [it's] just something different to do. A way to still celebrate the July Fourth holiday similar to how we used to even though it's not exactly the same thing."

Correction: 7/02/20

In a previous version of this digital story, we misspelled Ali Weibel's last name as Weibul.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

There's a memory in my head of watching an Independence Day parade in Carmel, Ind. I'm packed tightly in a crowd. A kid is on my shoulders. The kid has popcorn. Soldiers marching in old-time uniform stop in front of us and fire their rifles in salute. And at the sound of the gunshots, popcorn rains down on everyone. Normally, there would be many scenes like that in this coming weekend, but it's not looking like the safest year to stand in a crowd, so a community outside Cincinnati is running its parade differently. Here's Tana Weingartner of member station WVXU.

TANA WEINGARTNER, BYLINE: Montgomery, Ohio, is a bedroom community of about 10,000 on the northeast side of Cincinnati. Lawns are a lush green, American flags abound, and the annual Fourth of July parade is a long tradition. So when the pandemic threatened to cancel it, recreation director Julie Machon says they designed a reverse parade.

JULIE MACHON: So what it is is the units are stationary, and motorists drive through the parade.

WEINGARTNER: Machon stands in a driveway overlooking a large high school parking lot describing how the reverse parade will work. Each of the 50 or so parade entrants will have their own space safely apart from each other. Picture a big flea market. Spectators will stay in their cars, though, and weave up and down the aisles. The fire department will suspend a giant American flag from a ladder truck. The marching band is out, but a small ensemble of students will play patriotic tunes. There will be classic cars, the American Legion and Purple Heart veterans and performers from the Cincinnati Circus Company, where Ali Weibel is creative director.

ALI WEIBEL: We have jugglers who are going to be there, stilt walkers, bubble carts that are going to have bubbles going throughout the whole area. And then we have two big surprises that I'm not allowed to reveal just yet.

WEINGARTNER: Social distancing recommendations mean that float builders are instead repurposing previous years' entries.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINE WHIRRING)

WEINGARTNER: In a maintenance barn near the parking lot, city employees use a forklift to lower a wooden pergola onto a flatbed trailer lined with a carpet of artificial grass. They'll add red, white and blue bunting, streamers, flags and banners.

A few blocks away, Andy and Sarita Zilch and their daughters, Maya and Nora, typically gather with neighbors to watch the parade.

MAYA ZILCH: I like getting candy from the parade floats.

WEINGARTNER: Unfortunately for Maya, the reverse parade bans interaction, meaning no candy will be tossed into the crowd. Her mom, Sarita Zilch, has a plan, but Nora isn't so sure.

SARITA ZILCH: I heard about one mom that's going to bring candy with her and just throw it into the backseat every so often. Do you want me to do that (laughter)?

NORA ZILCH: No.

ZILCH: No? OK.

WEINGARTNER: Even if the girls aren't convinced about the reverse parade, Zilch is excited and looking forward to seeing familiar faces.

ZILCH: I mean, one benefit is we don't have to get there early and camp out and find a location that's in the shade. This will be nice and air conditioned and good (laughter).

WEINGARTNER: Instead of placing chairs along the route, people will line up their cars and drive through the Independence Day reverse parade at 3 miles per hour.

For NPR News, I'm Tana Weingartner in Cincinnati.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOONLIT SAILOR'S "THE CHEERS ON THE PARADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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