Friday, July 5, 2013

After Action Report: The Fourth of July

Mixing The Modern...
...And the Traditional
Chez Sarge is within the borders of the old seacoast town of Bristol. Which is home to the nation's oldest Fourth of July parade. (It's always advertised as the "nation's oldest", wouldn't it be the oldest on Earth? Is there any other country which has an older parade celebrating American Independence? No, I didn't think so.)
America's Oldest, Says So Right Here

From the Official Website:
Bristol, Rhode Island's Annual Fourth of July Celebration History
The Annual Bristol 4th of July Celebration began in 1785 when Rev. Henry Wight of the First Congregational Church and a Veteran of the Revolutionary War conducted the first Patriotic Exercises.
It is not known exactly when the Parade started but it is thought that it evolved from the procession of community members walking to Patriotic Exercises. The Parade, the Military, Civic and Firemen's Parade, is believed to have begun in the early 1800's.
The Celebration officially starts on June 14th, Flag Day and concludes with the 2.5 mile Military, Civic and Firemen's Parade on July 4th. Throughout the period following the Flag Day Ceremony numerous events are scheduled. They include a concert series at Independence Park, Fireworks, a Drum Corps Show, a Firefighters muster and a 4th of July Ball as well as many other events.
And from Wikipedia:
Bristol has the oldest continuously celebrated Independence Day festivities in the United States. The first mention of a celebration comes from July 1777, when a British officer noted sounds coming from across Narragansett Bay:
This being the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the Rebel Colonies, they ushered in the morning by firing 13 cannons, one for each colony, we suppose. At sunset, the rebel frigates fired another round of 13 guns, each one after the other. As the evening was very still and fine the echo of the guns down the Bay had a grand effect.
Now the first year we were here for the Fourth was in 2000. The year after I had retired from the Air Force and "got myself a steady job". Steady as in didn't have to move around so much and (for the first ten years at least) no temporary duty assignments to speak of.

As we met people and made new friends, we heard talk of this rather large event or "The Parade" as folks around here call it. (No, need to specify which parade, there is only one. It is the high point of the year for the good folks of Bristol. With good reason.)

Now Bristol is a middling sized town of some 20,000 souls located here on the shore of Narragansett Bay...

That's me in the foreground, the Bay is behind me when it's Parade Day, this small town swells to 200,000 (plus) with all the visitors from around little Rhody, the rest of New England and the world (according to Wikipedia, of course). So unless you can walk to get there, pretty much everyone stays put the morning of the Fourth. By 1500 in the afternoon, it's pretty much all over. One thing that impressed me was how quickly all the trash was cleaned up! And 200,000 people generate a lot of trash.

The main street in Bristol (Hope St.) the day of the parade.
Note the red, white and blue centerline.
That is there year round! Repainted fresh every July!

Now the first year, we all went downtown to the parade. We walked as there isn't much in the way of parking on a normal day in downtown Bristol (the town was founded in 1680, well before the automobile was invented). It was a nice parade, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of armored vehicles. Not sure why I expected those, probably because as a youth I saw a tank in my home town's Memorial Day parade. And I like tanks.

The second year we were here, the Missus Herself remarked that she would not be walking the mile and a half downtown for to see the parade. After all, she remarked, if you've seen one parade, you've seen them all. (Well, yes and no. But she had her mind made up.) So the WSO and I ventured forth to the parade by ourselves.

Wouldn't you know it, the parade was pretty much the same as the year before!

So we don't always go to the parade, perhaps every other year.

One epic Fourth of July celebration was in 2006, the year the WSO was commissioned. Seems that she and a number of former midshipmen/brand new ensigns were going to be in town for the Fourth. Seems that we would have a party on the grounds of Chez Sarge. Also, the WSO's college roommate (and fellow brand new ensign) would be in town, along with her ship, the frigate USS Taylor (FFG-50).

So there I was, a mid-50s retired Master Sergeant surrounded by (I think) five brand new ensigns. My God they're like young puppies! All energy and motion.

We went to the parade. And drank. We came home and played Beer Pong in the gardens using a door liberated from an upstairs bedroom as the table. And drank. We got monumentally drunk. At one point I was kicking butt at Beer Pong, until youth and enthusiasm overcame old age and trickery. The WSO was laughing so hard she toppled into the rose garden while still mounted in her lawn chair.

Ensign George went for cigars. Cheap cigars. Those on top of all the beer and the high temperatures of that day led to my decorating the front yard, so to speak. The WSO was concerned and asked me, "Are you alright Dad?" I told her no, I was not alright, my beer was empty and the cigars were obviously cheap and horrible.

I vowed two things that day, never again send an ensign to buy cigars and stop smoking cigars altogether. Of course, that situation has never arisen again!

Here's some of my personal snapshots from the parade.

The Fellow in the Flight Suit is an Air Force Major
A Pilot of the Thunderbirds
No, His F-16 Is Nowhere in Sight
Thanks to the Idiots in DC!
The Navy Band Northeast
Always at the Front
Always a Highlight!
F-9F Panther As Flown By This Guy in the Korean War
Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox
Ted Williams of the United States Marine Corps
(Yup, He's one of my heroes.)

But of course, things are not always all sweetness and light.

My Less Than Pleasant Observations Regarding the Fourth

For the first time since 1946, that's right folks since WWII, a warship of the United States Navy was not in town for the parade. Thanks to the feckless idiots in DC for making that not possible.

We took our grandson to the carnival the night before the Fourth. (Just for the record, Big O, as we sometimes call him, is absolutely fearless. Didn't matter the scariness of the ride, he wanted to go on it!)

Now at the carnival I was appalled. You see, it's been quite some time since I've been to a venue with young folks who were not members of the military. Tattoos everywhere, every male was dressed like a gang banger every young lady was dressed like a cheap prostitute. Ladies and gentlemen (I said to the wife), I give you the product of a liberal education. Here are your "liberal values" at work. Sickened me it did. Also the lack of manners was apparent.

At the parade, the lack of respect for the colors was also appalling. But you know, they don't teach that in the schools anymore. If you want to destroy a country, first destroy it's culture. The fools in charge right now are doing a fine job of that.

While the parade is a wonderful, patriotic event. This little tidbit reminds me that I'm still a small pocket of sanity in a vast liberal cesspool:

2009 Rhode Island Tea Party Incident
The Rhode Island Tea-Party Association applied to enter the parade with a float featuring a representation of the British ship Beaver, which was ransacked by colonists dressed as Native Americans in 1773 at the Boston Tea Party. Staffing the float was Helen Glover, a radio personality from Providence, RI–based WHJJ 920 AM.
The Bristol Fourth of July Committee ejected the Rhode Island Tea-Party Association float from the 2009 parade and permanently banned them from all future parades for distributing pocket copies of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights along the parade route. Such handouts are prohibited at the Parade on the grounds that people (especially children) running up to floats to get them pose a danger.
Sure, once again, it was for "the children". Liberal idiots. Doesn't stop some floats from throwing candy to the kids. Better that the children rot their teeth then learn about the greatest endeavor ever attempted by human kind.

Oh well, there's always next year I suppose.


  1. "...five brand new ensigns. My God they're like young puppies! All energy and motion."

    Scary, innit?
    All that knowledge and no wisdom ...or context.

    1. 'Tis why God created Chief Petty Officers (and Master Sergeants).

  2. Double post!?! You must have stolen some of that Ensign energy and kept it in reserve. I enjoyed the recap of your 4th. It's a shame about the the T-Bird Pilot, and I'm sure the anti-Tea Party members of your city council that were in attendance didn't even pick up on the fact that he should have been flying. I really like the part about Ted Williams. He's a really big deal around these parts, hometown hero and all, attending the local High School and going on to get those coveted wings of gold. MLB MVP, Triple Crown winner, .344 career average, HoF member...kind of an overachiever if you ask me!

    1. Well the Friday Flyby had been in work for a few days, actually finished it off Thursday night (after the fireworks). All I had to do on Friday was hit "Publish". And the parade was still fresh in my mind.

      Having a few days off also does help the energy level. Not quite to young puppy/ensign standards but good enough.

      We New Englanders tend to forget that Ted Williams was a California boy out of Sandy Eggo. I guess because he played so long for the Red Sox we just consider him a fellow New Englander.

  3. I've been to the Bristol parade, believe it or don't. The Second Mrs. Pennington and I were visiting SN2 & fambly when he was in SWO school in Newport and our visit happened to be over the July Fourth weekend, so we went to the parade. I can't remember what year that was (a lot o' water has gone over the dam since that time) but I DO remember I was MOST impressed.

    And... cheap cigars? OMG, no... a THOUSAND times no! I'll turn those things down every time, especially the blue and/or pink banded ones offered up to celebrate the birth of a child. If you're gonna give cigars away, give away GOOD ones.

    1. Wow, small world. Your SN2 probably went the long SWOS course like my son did. When the Nuke went to SWOS she had already been out in the fleet for quite some time. Seems that the Navy felt that the long course was wasted on many Ensigns. The new paradigm is time in the fleet and then, if your Skipper recommends it, you go to SWOS. Of course the school went from (I think) six months down to 8 weeks.

      I definitely learned my lesson vis a vis cheap cigars. Never again!

    2. Yep, he definitely went to the long course, coz he was in Newport for at least six months. I LIKE yer part o' the world and might even consider livin' there... if it weren't for the winters.

    3. The winters can be, shall we say, tiresome.


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