Six-year-old Zeya Castelli could have been plucked straight from a Norman Rockwell work. With big eyes, rosy red cheeks and a shy smile, she marched in her nautical red white and blue dress around the large backyard at Bill Nixon's Warwick Neck estate delivering cookies to everybody from a rustic wicker basket, which was also accented with a red, white and blue checkered bow.
"I've been coming to the parade since it started," she said proudly in response to how long she's been volunteering her time to the Warwick Neck Parade, which happens each year on the Fourth of July.
She might have meant she's been coming for as long as she can remember, because the parade celebrated its 27th year this past Thursday.
"The first year we sent out some fliers to maybe around 100 people, and all of them wanted to be in it," recalled Nixon, who organized the first parade and has done so each year since. "There was nobody to watch the parade because everyone was marching in it."
Today, the streets that host the parade's long line of participants – starting on Crawford Avenue, up Narragansett Bay Avenue, another turn onto Warwick Neck Avenue and back down Kirby Avenue – are full of residents that set up lawn chairs and blankets to watch the festivities unfold.
Marchers included Mayor Joseph Solomon and his son, Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr., Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, the Warwick Pack 1 Cub Scouts, Girl Scout Troop 79, the Warwick Neck Garden Club, the American Legion Post and many others, young and old, who rode bikes, wagons, classic Mustangs and all other array of vehicles to show their patriotism. The Grand Marshal was Brad Peterson, whom Nixon said had a long history of dedication to the Warwick Neck neighborhood.
As is tradition, the parade concludes with a gathering at Nixon's home, where watermelon, juice and cookies are served and various certificates are handed out. Everyone who attends can receive a participation certificate, and others are given special titles, such as the person who attends the parade from the farthest away place.
Indeed, looking at the size of the large crowd that gathered despite the holiday weekend and the scorching hot weather, it is clear to see that many in the neighborhood see the parade as more than an annual tradition, but as an important piece to their Fourth celebration.
"I see the children of many of the Cub Scouts that we saw in the early years of this parade," said Mayor Solomon, who somehow survived the march despite wearing khakis and a button down (he rolled his sleeves at least), during a short address to the crowd. "I look forward to its continuing growth and success for many years to come."