By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
Grand Island’s Independence Day festivities are once again planned to provide patriotic fun for participants and spectators, with a running race, a parade, bands and an after-party at the VFW.
The 53rd annual 4th of July parade has 56 floats this year, from the Grand Island Fire Co. to the Freaky Fast Fiberglass. It kicks off around 9:45 a.m. and should be wrapped up around 11:30 a.m., with roads reopened by noon, according to Town Recreation Supervisor Joseph Menter.
“It’s a long-running Island tradition lot of people come back in town for. Also, it’s always a fun day,” he said.
He said the Rec Department is tallying the list of floats for the parade, and there are a lot of people and groups returning to the lineup who have been in the parade for years, and in some cases decades.
“We’ve got a pretty good lineup for our performers – the pipe bands, the twirlers and dancing groups. … The bands – the Double Down Blues Band, 23 Skidoo and Wicked Lewsers; they’ve all been in the parade for a few years now,” Menter said.
He noted the bands would perform while the races are underway, then would join the parade.
The 47th annual Dick Bessel Independence Day Run begins at 9 a.m. at Grand Island Town Hall, 2255 Baseline Road. First is the 314-meter kids race for ages 4-10. All finishers receive a medal when they cross the finish line.
The adult 2.3-mile walk/run starts at 9:10 a.m. for ages 10 and up. Prizes are awarded for the top three in each of 16 age groups. Parking is available in the Grand Island Plaza parking lot on Grand Island Boulevard.
Preregistration ends at 5 p.m. Sunday, July 2, for the two races, but you can register on the day of the race at Town Hall, from 7-8:45 a.m. The course cutoff time is 9:55 a.m., so those still on the course would step off and move over to the sidewalk to make way for the parade.
Road closures will take place between 8:30 a.m. and noon. Grand Island Boulevard closes at 8:30 from the traffic circle to the intersection with Baseline Road.
Baseline Road closes from 8:45 to about 9:45 a.m., from Alvin Road to Whitehaven Road.
The after-party at Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial VFW Post 9246 is open to the public. It starts as the parade ends. The celebration is a well-established part of the tradition of July 4 on Grand Island.
Parking is available at Tops, the Grand Island Plaza and the Rite Aid Plaza. Some people park at Mallwitz’s Island Lanes, Menter said.
“Anyone that’s parked along the Boulevard, along the parade route if they get in there before 8:30, they just won’t be able to get out until the roads reopen, but all those other locations … you can get out of there pretty much any time after 9:45,” he said.
As to the parade route itself, Menter described the procession: “The law enforcement escort starts at the VFW and goes up through the intersection of Grand Island Boulevard and Baseline Road. The majority of the parade floats and entries start at the Speedway, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Amore, and are south of there.”
Getting a parade spectator spot set up with chairs and coolers before July 4 is one longstanding tradition that won’t be followed, because it’s no longer allowed until parade day.
“That was a long-running Island tradition,” Menter recalled. “It used to be a day or two before – people would put things out – and then it started creeping back a little bit, where it was a few days and a week before. People had some pretty elaborate set-ups.”
“That was actually the state DOT that came through and saw it and gave the town a stern warning; that was in 2019. They said that the right-of-ways are blocked, it’s becoming a hazard, when you’re pulling in and out of driveways along the Boulevard,” he said.
“I remember in 2021, when our Highway Department put those signs out (setting a start time before which you couldn’t save a spot), there were a lot of people that weren’t happy about it.”
But it worked out for the best.
Menter said the garbage collection bins were going to be put out along the parade route the night before, on July 3.
“There was actually a big thunder and windstorm that came through that night, so bad that they said, ‘We’re going to hold off.’ They got up early the morning of the 4th of July and put the cans out then. If that Boulevard was lined with all the tents and chairs, they would have been blown all over the Boulevard,” he said. “That was kind of a reminder from Mother Nature.”
So, he encourages paradegoers to get there early and get their spot.
“This will be a new tradition,” Menter said.