‘Only in Canonsburg’

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CANONSBURG – Middle age is mostly known for its creeping flab, but the 51-year-old Canonsburg Fourth of July parade was leaner and more sprightly this year.


Clocking in at just about two hours on the nose, the parade had 117 units gliding down Pike Street, the borough’s main thoroughfare, and it was blessed with almost ideal parade-watching weather – rain snuck away before its kick-off, leaving partly cloudy skies and temperatures that were warm, but not punishingly so.


“I can’t believe the sun has come out for the start of the parade,” said former borough manager Terry Hazlett, who was handling announcing duties for the event. “Only in Canonsburg.”


Over the parade’s 120 minutes, the estimated 50,000 viewers saw a fairly standard selection of fire trucks, marching bands, vintage cars, veterans groups and candy-tossing representatives of local and regional businesses. As the parade was moving into gear, Hazlett told the crowd near the borough building that a surprise awaited at the parade’s conclusion, and it arrived in the form of Gov. Tom Corbett, who walked along the parade route in a polo shirt, pleated pants and penny loafers, accompanied by earpiece-wearing security men and local Republicans carrying Corbett signs.


Corbett’s polling numbers have recently been anemic, and that could account for the mixed reaction he received. Some paradegoers applauded and waved and Corbett posed in photos with several of them and engaged them in conversation. However, a few booed, and many seemed simply indifferent, as they folded their chairs, collected their gear and started the long march to their homes or vehicles.


At a presentation at the reviewing stand with Mayor David Rhome, Corbett acknowledged that not everyone was glad to see him. “I heard a lot of free speech along the way,” he joked, then added, “It’s a great day for Pennsylvania and a great day for Canonsburg.”


Canonsburg’s parade was the second one Corbett appeared in Thursday – he also participated in the Fourth of July celebration in Brentwood, a borough in Allegheny County.


The lead-up to this year’s pageant was notable for some grumbling from unhappy parade aficionados and past participants because it was going to be condensed and chairs could be placed on Pike Street only 48 hours beforehand. However, Ed Blanck, who was relaxing in a chaise lounge outside his townhouse on Pike Street, said “I think it’s better” that the borough decided to limit when chairs could go out. He also noted that all his grandchildren stop at his house for the parade and “we have a good time.”


Frank and Belinda Lent of Fredericktown checked out the parade for the first time so they could see their granddaughter dance in it. “We’re loving it,” Frank Lent said.


Some of the politicians who had previously marched in the parade were elbowed aside this year to tame its unwieldy length, but state Sen. Tim Solobay was represented in it twice, first in his capacity as a state senator, and then as assistant fire chief for the borough’s volunteer fire department.


“It seems to be the traditional Canonsburg Fourth of July,” Solobay said, wearing his formal firefighter’s uniform. “People seem to be enjoying it.”


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