Fourth of July Organization’s celebration begins today

“America strong.”

That is the theme for the annual event that’s been a part of Warren’s history for the past 71 years.

“We chose that theme because when we were planning the parade, and getting all of our ideas together, all of these tragedies kept happening,” said this year’s Warren County Fourth of July Organization event chair Bill Thompson.

From school shootings to hurricanes, Thompson said the past year has been a test of the nation’s ability to remain strong in the face of tragedy.

“These times are when people come out of the woodwork to support one another,” said the Fourth of July Organization’s past chairman Wally Post. “That’s how America stays strong.”

Warren County has always been a perfect example of staying strong in the face of local tragedy.

“We’re just a perfect example of that willingness to help one another in this community,” Thompson said.

It was a local tragedy that befell this year’s Grand Marshal — Canine Officer Choper of the Conewango Police Department.

“We had a bunch of names on a short list,” said Post. But when Choper was injured during a training accident on June 6, Post said, “we knew it had to be him.”

Choper will be honored posthumously and his handler, Officer Scott Neiswonger, will be leading this year’s parade.

On Tuesday, July 3, the official celebration begins in earnest — in the spirit of an old-time street dance. The kickoff event brings bounce houses, face painting, vendors, music, and food to Liberty Street for a non-alcoholic, family-friendly event that will begin at 4 p.m. The Youth Connection will be performing and there will be appearances by the Enchanted Fairytale Troupe — including superheroes and princesses, with the evening ending with a performance by the band Trixx. Tuesday’s events end at 10 p.m.

On Wednesday, the annual Fourth of July parade will begin with the pre-parade show at 9:30 a.m. and Downbeat Percussion — the official drumline of the Buffalo Bills — as well as other drumlines performing until the parade begins at 11 a.m. The parade will run from Carver to Laurel streets down Pennsylvania Avenue. The parade route is around a mile long, and parade lasts around two-and-a-half hours, Post said.

In addition to the many drum and bugle corps, he said the Shriners’ Zems Zems will be assembling for one of their point parades in Warren for a second year in a row.

Music will be on full display, with another two or three floats featuring music in addition to the drum and bugle corps, and the Elks band, Post said.

The variety of organizations and businesses represented this year is of “a wide variety,” Post went to say, adding that around 18 to 20 floats and at least 25 fire trucks will be rolling down the avenue. Drill teams, dance teams, and twirling corps will be represented, Post said, and the parade will again be televised, with DVDs for sale about three weeks following the event.

Bleacher seats are available for $10, and will include lunch and a ticket for a chance to win the grand prize of $5,000, or one of 60 other prizes, said Post.

“The bleachers are the best seat in the house,” he said, and are located at the end of the parade near Laurel Street on Pennsylvania Ave. W. “There are plenty available” as of now, Post said, but they’re selling fast.

Bleacher seats can be purchased at Virg-Ann’s Flower Shop on Pennsylvania Ave. They can also be purchased on the day of the event at the reviewing area, Post said, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Handicap parking will be available at CVS on the corner of Market Street and Pennsylvania Ave., with the lot being accessible up until around 10 a.m. The Pennsylvania Ave. West section of the parade route will be closing prior to the pre-parade show at 9 a.m.

Following the parade, “we encourage everyone to come to Betts Park,” said Post, where there will be another performance by Downbeat Percussion starting at around 4:30 or 5 p.m.

Blue Morning, a Foreigner tribute band, will also be performing starting at 7:30 p.m.

Food vendors and classic family games such as sack races, tug of war, and three-legged races will be free of charge. There will be food and craft vendors.

The annual fireworks show will begin at 10 p.m. that night (July 4), with the grand prize drawing to follow. Grand prize tickets will be available throughout the two days of events, and can be purchased from any Fourth of July Organization vendor.

The entire event, as always, “is very family-oriented, very kid-friendly,” Post said. “There’s going to be plenty for kids to do and families. Just come on down and have a good time.”