Bristol Fourth of July Parade

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Crowded street scene prior to the Bristol Fourth of July Parade. The town's unique red, white, and blue center line is also visible.

Bristol Fourth of July Parade (or Bristol Fourth of July Celebration), founded in 1785, is a nationally known Fourth of July parade in Bristol, Rhode Island. The parade is part of the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the United States of America.[1]


The annual official and historic celebrations (Patriotic Exercises) were established in 1785 by Rev. Henry Wight of the First Congregational Church and veteran of the Revolutionary War, and later by Rev. Wight as the Parade, and continue today, organized by the Bristol Fourth of July Committee. The festivities officially start on June 14, Flag Day, beginning a period of outdoor concerts, soap-box races and a firefighters' muster at Independence Park. The celebration climaxes on July 4 with the oldest annual parade in the United States, "The Military, Civic and Firemen's Parade", an event that draws over 200,000 people from Rhode Island and around the world. These elaborate celebrations give Bristol its nickname, "America's most patriotic town". In 1785 the Bristol Fourth of July Celebration (beginning as the Patriotic Exercises) was founded and the Fourth of July has been celebrated every year in Bristol since that date, although the parade itself was canceled several times.[2][3]

Celebration traditions[edit]

  • Patriotic Exercises Speaker: the oldest tradition and given to a notable person chosen to speak (starting in 1785)
  • Chief Marshal: a high honor given to a Bristol resident (starting in 1826)
  • Visiting ship: a U.S. Navy ship is present at the celebration (starting in 1876)
  • Drum and Bugle Corps from around the country
  • Button Contest: winner is given a $100 bond and can be in the parade
  • Longest Traveled Award: given to the person who has traveled the longest distance to return to Bristol

2009 Rhode Island Tea Party incident[edit]

The Rhode Island Tea-Party Association applied to enter the parade with a float featuring a representation of the British ship Beaver, which was ransacked by colonists dressed as Native Americans in 1773 at the Boston Tea Party. Staffing the float was Helen Glover, a radio personality from Providence, RI–based WHJJ 920 AM.

The Bristol Fourth of July Committee ejected the Rhode Island Tea-Party Association float from the 2009 parade and permanently banned them from all future parades for distributing pocket copies of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights along the parade route. Such handouts are prohibited at the Parade on the grounds that people (especially children) running up to floats to get them pose a danger.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Founder of America’s Oldest Fourth of July Celebration". First Congregational Church. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Anonymous (3 July 2008). "Borne with the Fourth of July: Bristol carries on a rich tradition". The Providence Journal. p. B.1. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Simpson, Richard V. (1989). Independence Day: How the Day is Celebrated in Bristol, Rhode Island. Middletown, RI: Aquidneck Graphics. OCLC 22001850. 
  4. ^ Macris, Gina (9 July 2009). "Tea Party gets dumped from Bristol parade". The Providence Journal. p. A.1. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 

External links[edit]