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There’s No Place Like Bristol on the Fourth of July: A Parade Guide

Bristol Parade 4th of July

Follow the yellow brick – wait – scratch that Dorothy. You’re not in Kansas anymore, you’re in Bristol, Rhode Island, perhaps the most patriotic town in the country.

The center lines guiding the navigation of America’s oldest Fourth of July tradition aren’t your typical land of Oz yellow. Instead, this map has red, white and blue written all over it.

The path of the 233rd Annual Military, Civic and Fireman’s Parade spans 2.5 miles through town – and its history traces back more than two-hundred years to 1785. Cox Communications is proud to be a sponsor of the parade.

The precise origin of the parade may have gotten twirled around over time, but the man behind this curtain was a Revolutionary War veteran named Rev. Henry Wight of the First Congregational Church. He’s the wizard that figuratively ignited the first celebratory fireworks in Bristol.

This place feels like somewhere over the rainbow during the three weeks that span between June 14, Flag Day, and July 4, America’s Independence Day. It’s just that amazing – and colorful.

“Our committee has over one-hundred working members that work 364 days a year to raise money, organize, and plan this celebration,” Bristol Fourth of July Chairman Michele Martins said. Each and every member is committed to keeping this tradition spirited and special.

The official kick-off is Flag Day and the patriotic sparks continue to fly through the 4th of July with a two-week concert series, Annual Orange Crate Derby, Annual Old Fashion Days and Vintage baseball on the town common, the carnival, and of course the grand finale – the Bristol 4th of July Parade.

If you are planning on attending the concerts, look for the Cox Shirts as we hand out fans to our “fans” to help keep them cool!

                                                          2017 Bristol 4th of July Parade
The parade begins at 10:30 am with the starting point anchored at Mount Hope High School at the corner of Chestnut Street and Hope Street (Rt. 114). Parade participants will head down Hope Street about 1.8 miles to High Street, then proceed up High Street about three-quarters of a mile to conclude their celebratory march between State Street and Bradford Street, just past Bristol Town Common near the Bristol Train of Artillery Museum.

Expect to see some awesome costumes, floats and bands along the way – but also significant road closures. Plan ahead. Hope Street will be shut down Fourth of July morning beginning 8:00 am. This closure includes Poppasquash Road. Chestnut Street, Naomi Street and Sherry Avenue will also be closed to traffic that morning beginning at 7:00 am.

Parking restrictions will go into effect the night before the parade along the parade route. On the day of the parade, you may park on residential streets. Be sure to follow traffic laws as police will be out and ready to ticket your car if it’s blocking a driveway. Because participants will be meeting early at Mount Hope High School and parking near there, it is recommended patrons seek out other areas for parking. There will be lots open to the public at the corner of Hope Street and Gooding Avenue, which is about a half-mile walk to the parade start.

If you’re looking for handicapped parking, you’ll find it across from the Town Hall on Court Street. There will also be a viewing section made available for people with disabilities at the corner of Hope Street and Court Streets across from the Harriet Bradford Motor Inn.

Bring the kids but kindly leave Todo at home – it’s recommended that pets don’t accompany you on this adventure. Alcoholic beverages are obviously also prohibited. Leave the sparkling red theatrics up to the professionals that have been planning this thing since September. In other words, fireworks, silly string, “poppers”, streamers, water pistols, and projectiles of any sort are a big no-no.

All that you really need are some cold non-alcoholic beverages, a blanket and some chairs. An umbrella couldn’t hurt, either – and sunscreen. Of course, sunscreen!

Thinking of camping out overnight? Your enthusiasm is appreciated but not allowed. Don’t camp or set up camp before 5:00 am on parade day. Really, don’t. Parade staff will confiscate your stuff.

Feel free to have a skip in your step, but travel only by foot. If you’re planning on biking, skateboarding or rollerblading somewhere along the parade route, you’re going to have to walk with your wheels in tow.

The best advice is to get there early, park early, claim your spot early (but not before 5:00am, early bird). Also, if you are going early, bring some distractions and entertainment for the kiddos while you wait. You know your kids best – a book, a yo-yo or a tablet? That’s up to you, so long as your gadgets aren’t restricted in the aforementioned list. Check here for more information.

Once the parade begins, it will last around two hours. Find a comfortable, hopefully somewhat shady spot to settle in and enjoy. Trust that you’ll see the traditional staples of the parade, plus a few newbies, too. This year there will be a Mummers group, Funky Carnival. They are an all clown band from Canada!

Take lots of pictures – let your pride shine – and don’t worry. First Aid crews will be out and about and ready to help if and when they are needed.

There really is no other place like Bristol. It’s true. There’s no place like Bristol! There’s no place like Bristol!