'This is home, this is tradition'

Thousands come out to celebrate the Fourth of July across Washington County

GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske

Elliott Wenger, 4, and Audrey Miller, 5, stand together during the annual Wellman Fourth of July parade on Thursday, July 4.
GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske Elliott Wenger, 4, and Audrey Miller, 5, stand together during the annual Wellman Fourth of July parade on Thursday, July 4.

WASHINGTON COUNTY — For the fourth year in a row, Kylene and Robert Loughrey had the best seat in the house for the annual Wellman Fourth of July parade: their front porch.

The couple said when they moved to town from Fairfax three years ago, they had no idea the parade and all-day celebration Wellman offered would be so extensive.

“We were expecting a couple of cars to go by and maybe the local fire department,” Robert said with a laugh.

“We were impressed,” Kylene agreed.

The parade, nearly an hour long with over 70 entries, spanned 13 blocks and welcomed an estimated 2,000 people. Robert joked every kid at the parade went home with 10 pounds of candy, but that was not all. Ice pops, water bottles and even bouncy balls were being tossed as well.

Shawn Powell, a parade announcer, said the amount of people and enthusiasm for the yearly event is typical for Wellman. He said he has been attending every year since he was a kid and decided to volunteer as an extra way to be involved and have fun.

“I grew up here watching and being a part of it and now we’re at the point where I volunteer to help,” he said.

Powell said seeing the town nearly double in size during the event is fun, and a good feeling of hometown pride.

“It’s the one celebration we do a year and it’s just great having all these people here,” he said. “Everyone looks forward to the Wellman parade.”

As the parade came to a close, kids swarmed the street in front of Freeman Foods for one last chance at candy as store employees tossed buckets of bubble gum off the rooftop and into the street.

In Washington, the celebration started much later in the day when the Washington Municipal Band took the stage in Central Park at 8 p.m., for its annual Liberty Concert.

Their director, Tom McNamar, said this was their 88th season and having been part of the group since 1993, he was proud to be part of the legacy. Getting to perform on the Fourth of July was extra special, he said, because it is a way to honor veterans in the community.

“When I look out there and I see men like Wayne Brock and we remember people like Max See, and some of the other players that have been with the band and knowing how much people have sacrificed; we always give our concerts to the community, but especially on a day like this we give it to our veterans and families of veterans,” he said.

Out at the fairgrounds, Megan Adler, of Washington, brought her two daughters to experience a tradition she’s been partaking in for more than 20 years. Adler said coming to the fairgrounds for fireworks is something she has done since she was a kid and a practice she wants to pass on to her daughters as well.

“This is home and it’s become a tradition,” she said.

The Gonzalez family, of Washington, was also out at the fairgrounds. They arrived about 4:30 p.m. with snacks, chairs and their own fireworks. Nena Gonzalez said this has been the family tradition for the past seven years and something they look forward to because it offers time to be with each other.

“I’ve been celebrating it since I was a little girl with my family, but I live away from my family, so this is my family now,” she said.