“Mommy, the parade is starting!”
Children and adults alike began cheering and waving their miniature American flags when the police escorts came into view on Carroll Avenue, marking the start of the 128th Annual Independence Day Parade in Takoma Park.
The parade attracted viewers from outside the immediate neighborhood, including Jerry Ricciardi who attended dressed head-to-toe in red, white and blue.
“We’ve come here probably three or four years with the boys,” Ricciardi said, explaining the appeal of the parade. “It’s local. It’s not too big. It’s not overdone. It’s just the right amount of crowd and people. It’s a good hometown feel.”
Musicians, emergency vehicles, activist groups, politicians, beauty pageant winners, local organizations and Takoma Park’s own Uncle Sam made their way through the parade distributing stickers, candy, bubbles, flags and entertainment.
Among all the marchers, Landover resident Jeanette Griffith loved Panquility SteelBand.
“I was just amazed by how all the cultures could come together,” Griffith said.
Simone De Lima also thought the band had “an amazing rhythm going.”
Kanika Arnold of Panquility SteelBand noted the continued support the band has received in the past five years of participating in the parade.
“I think each time we come back the crowd does look for us,” said Arnold. “We have plenty of people that walk by in the beginning that say ‘We can’t wait to see you!’”
Another performing arts favorite was the Shanghai No. 3 Girls School that helped close out the parade. Despite the conductor’s absence due to a fever, the combined band and drumline gave a performance receiving much praise.
“The kids enjoyed the whole process,” Team Leader Ricardo Gu said as some of the girls posed for pictures with a parade goer. “The audience is really passionate and liked us. We can see that from their response.”
The theme of the parade was “Unity in the Community,” inspired by an initiative founded by Capital City Cheesecake co-owner Meaghan Murphy, Takoma Park Police Captain Tyrone Collington Sr. and Mayor Kate Stewart that aims to build relationships and trust between police officers and young community members of color, according to the parade program.
“Takoma Park is very much a cultural place and the theme speaks volumes about the community itself,” Parade Director David Cohen said.
Paulette Wendell, who moved to Takoma Park recently, found that theme was embodied throughout the festival.
“Everybody seemed to know each other,” observed Wendell. “There was always someone running out to one of the floats to high-five their neighbor or friend.”
Other spectators found the theme to be fitting given the current political climate.
“Walking around today, I had a lot of questions in mind; what the country is going through politically, how people are divided somehow, racial issues,” Nowah Afangbedji explained. “But there are parts [where] you feel like those questions are answered here, where you see that people don’t care what your ancestry is. They just came here to rejoice and enjoy and celebrate.”
10-year Takoma Park resident Sharon Milgram agreed.
“This year we were hoping for a little bit of positive energy about the country and the future,” Milgram said. “It’s a hard time. We’re not very welcoming as a country in our policies and to see really diverse people and families in the community come together right now is valuable.”
Despite some apprehension about the future, Milgram was all smiles as she began packing up her belongings to join the crowds headed home.
“It’s nice to live in Takoma Park.”
Independence Day festivities continued in the evening at Takoma Park Middle School with performances and fireworks.