There's no bigger deal in Bristol than the Fourth of July Parade. It is the biggest show in town, has been for 230 years. Naturally when the parade committee announced that they were shaving nearly half a mile off of the parade route along Hope Street, Bristol kind of lost it.
“Nobody that I’ve spoken to had any inkling that it was going on,” says Bristolian Paul Castigliego, a teacher at the Kickemuit Middle School who owns a home on Hope Street.
“From what I understand nobody knew anything,” says David M. Sylveria, fleet captain for Blount Small Ship Adventures, another parade route homeowner. “That’s my biggest gripe with it.”
"The Fourth of July Committee has absolutely no obligation to go out to the public before they make a decision on any aspect of the celebration nor have we ever," parade chairman Fran O'Donnell had said following the announcement. According to Fran, the decision was made largely because of public safety concerns – there are no points of egress along that stretch of the route – that were recognized and supported by local police and fire officials.
Bristolians took to social media, earning nearly 4,000 followers on the Save the Bristol 4th Parade Route Facebook page in under 24 hours. Passions ran high, with many concerned about elderly residents and veterans no longer having easy access to viewing the parade. There was also the fact that many homeowners along Hope Street had purchased their property specifically for the parade.
“It’s a big thing to live on the parade route,” explains Paul. “My dream was to raise my family on the parade route. I built a front porch on the house for it.”
Luckily for Paul and his family, it looks like they’ll be able to put that porch to use this summer.
After the overwhelming backlash, the committee reconvened at the Colt School Auditorium and in an 80-10 vote reversed the decision made only a week earlier.
“I’m very proud of the whole committee, I haven't seen that many numbers in a while. They listened calmly,” says Fran, who stood as the face of the decision at the meeting. “I hope everyone can move forward from this to continue this great tradition, and I hope all of those people who are so passionate about this parade can channel their energies and join the committee.”