Each year on the Fourth of July, Canonsburg Borough, with a population of almost 9,000, turns into one of the most patriotic towns in the country.
Friday was no exception, as an estimated 70,000 paradegoers lined Pike Street, dressed in red, white and blue, waving flags and clapping as 110 units – including more than a dozen floats, marching bands, military vehicles, bag pipers and plenty of classic cars – went through downtown. Kicking off the parade were several police cars and fire trucks.
Even a dog was painted red, white and blue.
Canonsburg’s old-fashioned ode to the Fourth of July is the second biggest parade in the state, and generations of families come back every year.
Longtime Canonsburg residents Phil and Bonnie Belfiore said they haven’t missed a parade in the 57 years since they’ve been married.
“We brought our four children here every year, and we sat down by the post office. I love to see the people who come, and the bands,” said Bonnie.
Angela Heffner of Strabane, a parade veteran, sat on a blanket adorned with stars and stripes, next to a cooler filled with snacks and beverages to munch on during the 2 ½ hour parade.
“I love this parade. On a scale of one to 10, I give it a 10,” said Heffner, who requested off work to attend.
Richard Zimmerman, a member of the Masonic Lodge in Canonsburg, said he marched in parades for dozens of years as a Shriner, and the Canonsburg parade was always among the group’s favorites.
“Canonsburg, Ligonier and Brentwood are the three places marchers like to mark. People are very supportive here,” said Zimmerman. “The people of Canonsburg are so generous. It’s not unusual for paradegoers to hand you water on a hot day, or if you looked like you needed a drink.”
At the grandstand, Canonsburg Mayor David Rhome presented a key to the borough to Gov. Tom Corbett, who walked the parade route and was the last entrant in the parade.
Corbett’s appearance got a mixed response. Some paradegoers heckled him at the beginning of the route, but supporters walked onto the street to shake his hand and wish him well.
“For the most part, residents were respectful of his position. Any time the governor comes to your town, I’d want people to be respectful of the position,” said Rhome. “That’s why we celebrate today: you have the right to your own opinion and you can express your likes and dislikes with our leadership.”
The festivities began at 7:45 with the Whiskey Rebellion race, which winds through Canonsburg.
Members of the Scarci family, originally from Canonsburg, run the race, attend the parade, get together for picnic and then were scheduled to cap off the night at the stadium, where they watch fireworks.
“I’ve been away for 20 years, but I come back every year for the Fourth,” said Joe Scarci, who lives in Boston.
Jessica Phelan, who is related to Scarci, and her fiancé, Kristian Brito, also ran. Brito carried an American flag throughout the race.
“It’s a great parade. It’s a pride thing,” said Phelan. “It just feels good that we have something that distinguishes our town, and it brings us together to celebrate such a great holiday.”