For the past 20 years, Warwick Neck has been home to the only Fourth of July parade with more participants than spectators.
“Anyone can get in the parade. You don’t have to ask, you can just be in it,” said Bill Nixon, who is in charge of organizing the Warwick Neck Improvement Association-sponsored parade every year.
That was certainly the case this year. Nixon estimated close to 300 people were at the 2013 celebration on Thursday morning, which concluded with a gathering in Nixon’s backyard, complete with lemonade, watermelon and cookies for the community.
Madeline Nixon, Bill’s wife, recalls when 20 years ago a group of women in the neighborhood suggested the formation of a parade. They also suggested that Bill be put in charge of organizing the event.
“They said we ought to have a parade for our children,” said Madeline.
Nixon explained that they sent out flyers about the parade only two weeks before Fourth of July 1993. He says between 100 and 125 people showed up, but no one wanted to watch.
“They all wanted to be in the parade!” said Nixon.
Although, he does recall seeing a small viewing party along the route.
“I think a couple got lost on the way to Rocky Point; I believe they were the only spectators,” recalls Nixon about the first parade.
And that hasn’t changed. Walking along the parade route, one will see small groups of spectators in lawn chairs in front of their homes. In 2013, there were probably less than 50 spectators along the route, which starts on Kirby Avenue and travels to Crawford Avenue, Narragansett Bay Avenue and Warwick Neck Avenue.
“Now you can’t stop it,” said Madeline.
Not that she would want to. Madeline says playing host to nearly 300 people in her backyard is not work, but pleasure.
“Every year is different and everyone is welcome,” she said.
This year, there were many first-timers at the parade. Brenda and Philip Vecchio had attended the parade in the past but had yet to bring their toddler, Emily.
“We wanted to start a family tradition,” said Brenda.
Barry Graves and his son Braydon were in charge of driving the Warwick Neck Gardening Club’s flower-covered float. But for the first time, they were not using their normal tractor. Due to mechanical issues, they were borrowing someone’s four-wheeler.
“I’m not even sure whose this is,” joked Barry.
Warwick Police Department and Fire Department even get in on the celebration, with motorcycles leading off the parade and a fire truck following behind.
City and state officials also participate. Representative Frank Ferri and his former opponent and current Ward 5 Councilman Edgar Ladouceur walked together in the parade.
Senator Bill Walaska and his family have participated in the parade for years. His family used to create floats such as The Hannah, the ship that burned the HMS Gaspee, and even a float depicting the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.
This year, however, the six Walaska grandchildren had outgrown the John Deere tractor they used to ride, so the family decorated a red truck with the logos of the Boston sports teams to celebrate “Boston Strong.”
A longtime fan of all Boston teams, Walaska still recalls going to Fenway Park at 10 years old and getting hit with a line drive ball from none other than Ted Williams.
“Right up the jaw,” recalls Walaska, who still has the ball.
Walaska says he prefers the Warwick Neck parade over other celebrations and is always talking about the celebrations with his colleagues at the State House.
The parade has become a tradition for the neighborhood and stays with families as time goes on.
“Some of the kids that were kids when this started are grown and have their own kids,” said Nixon. “Now people are inviting friends from all over the country to come here for the Fourth of July.”
In addition to a fun walk (or bike ride) around the neighborhood, certificates are given to every single child that participates and organizations such as the Warwick Neck Garden Club.
Louisa Goodin and Terri Moran have the very important job of creating the awards as the parade occurs.
The pair tried to catch all participants for names and costumes on Kirby before the parade began, but some snuck around the back way down Crawford. Additional certificates are filled out afterwards.
Goodin said making the certificates during the very quick 45-minute parade is a difficult task.
“It was a combination of bad handwriting and bad spelling,” joked Goodin about their list of participants to create certificates for.
“Good job with reading that,” she said to Moran.
By 11:30 a.m. the people had cleared out and moved on to their own family celebrations or to spend the day in the sun on a beach, but the Nixons know the short celebration is worth it.
Nixon recalls a young boy many years ago coming up to him and saying the parade day was the best day of his life.
“It’s an old-fashioned community parade like John Adams said we should have on the Fourth of July,” said Madeline.