Standing in the middle of the street on a hot July day directing traffic may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for Johnny Garcia, seeing the faces of the people who turned out for Craig’s Independence Day parade made all the leg work worthwhile.
Garcia summed up his feelings.
“It was great,” he said.
More than 500 people lined the streets for Monday’s Fourth of July parade, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, the VFW Ladies Auxiliary and American Legion Post 62.
Looping from the VFW post to Victory Way to Yampa Avenue to Sixth Street and back, the festivities included floats celebrating the American spirit with local veterans and the Daughters of the American Revolution, among other groups, as well as residents of all ages atop bicycles, motorcycles, pickup trucks and more.
Spectator Brandy Berkey said her family’s favorite part of the parade were the tractors.
“We just wanted to get out here with the community, with our kids and hang out,” she said. “I hope they’re planning to do it in the following years. I’d definitely like for them to.”
The parade lasted about 30 minutes, but organizers lost count of how many participated.
“We didn’t know if we were going to have one come out or 1,000,” VFW Commander Mark Wick said of parade participants. “If you got here a minute before the parade, you were in.”
Amid the sounds of blaring sirens, the roar of classic car engines and cheering from the sidewalks was the patriotic tune “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as performed by a citizens’ marching band, led by Moffat County High School band teacher John Bolton.
Kaci Meek, a 2011 MCHS graduate, and her sister, Becky, were among the musicians, playing the trombone and clarinet, respectively.
“I thought that playing at graduation would be my last time playing here, so it was just fun to get out and do it again,” Kaci said. “It’s a great opportunity to get out and be part of everything.”
Following the parade was a free community barbecue on the south side of City Park, which included free picnic food and materials donated by Brother’s Custom Processing, Black Mountain Meats, Pepsi, Yampa Valley Bank, Craig Campgrounds and Axis Steel.
It also included family activities like a children’s bounce house and sawdust money pit.
Attendee Billy Davis said he enjoyed having a nice holiday event for his family.
“It’s great for everybody to come out and see each other,” he said. “We usually just have a barbecue at the house, then watch the fireworks up on the hill. We live up by the high school, so we’ve got a good bird’s eye view of the place.”
Garcia, who was chairman of the parade committee, said he raised the idea of an Independence Day parade to the VFW in February.
“I figured gas is tight, people aren’t going to be going anywhere, so they just told me to run with it,” he said. “I moved here in 1963, and they’ve never had a Fourth of July parade. This is the first one that I know of.”
Local veteran Jim Meineke said the last time Craig staged a parade for Independence Day was in the 1940s, following World War II, but enthusiasm for such an event tapered off by the end of the decade.
Meineke got to retain the excitement of previous years when he received the distinction of grand marshal for this year’s parade.
“It was really exciting, and I was really thrilled to be named,” he said.
Meineke said he was so excitedabout the honor that he immediately called his daughter, who at the time was in Philadelphia, viewing the Liberty Bell.
“It was just phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve got such a good working relationship between the American Legion and the VFW, and we do a lot of things separately, but it’s great when we can do something together.”
Garcia said he was glad to have so many Craig residents show up and embrace American patriotism.
“This is our independence — ours, not yours, not mine, ours,” he said. “We didn’t have a military theme, it was just red, white and blue. Those have been the colors since we gained our independence, and that’s what it’s all for.”
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