TALES OF TAKOMA: The Independence Day Parade

Caption: 4th of July celebration, 1920 Date: 4 July 1920 Location: Takoma Park DC & MD Subject: parade Obj ID: 1999.03.0133


As we celebrate Independence Day 2015, here’s a look back at the origins of Takoma Park’s Fourth of July parade:

Takoma Park has been celebrating Independence Day since 1889 (it rained that year). The early years included patriotic speeches and pageants, brass bands, even fireworks, but no parades. In 1920 optimism was returning after the war years. The Sunday schools from the four local churches suggested adding a parade to the traditional schedule. Each church organized one division. By 1922, the idea had expanded into a full-fledged recreation of history on a grade scale, under the guidance of an Organizing Committee. As recounted in the Takoma Examiner, “the plan of the parade has made it possible for the parents of a single family, having been assigned an event to portray, to design, decorate and enter the parade without an unreasonable expenditure of funds or labor…sometime one or more families joining together on a float.”

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The parade route varied – some years ending at the DC Elementary School, other years beginning there and ending at the Presbyterian Church. A full schedule of athletics filled the hours between the parade and the fireworks display, which was held at the open field on Philadelphia and Maple.

The parades continued through the Great Depression, and the opening years of the war. Festivities were curtailed in 1944 and 1945 but returned with new vigor in 1947. By the mid-1950s, dedicated volunteers like Belle Ziegler saw to it that kids on brightly decorated bikes marched along with boy scouts, fire engines and floats from all the civic organizations. During the protest years of the 1960s and 70s, marchers injected a zany sense of humor (hippies in bathtubs), traces of which continue to surface.

Whether you chose to march or view the parade from curbside – enjoy Takoma Park’s oldest tradition.

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About the Author

Diana Kohn
Diana Kohn is president of Historic Takoma, Inc., which is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the heritage of both Takoma Park MD and DC. Diana is co-author of Images of America: Takoma Park, a photo history of the town.