Longtime residents and patriotic pups help celebrate the Fourth of July in Roxborough

John and William Barnes remember when Roxborough’s Independence Day Parade of Churches and Sunday Schools meant days of hard work and preparation, but now, the elderly brothers have luxury seats in the parade’s vintage car procession.

The Barnes brothers have attended Wissahickon Presbyterian Church in Roxborough since they were born and have celebrated countless Fourth of July holidays at the parade, which English immigrant Samuel Lawson began in 1831, while he was a Sunday school teacher at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church. Over the years, more denominations and organizations joined his effort and formed committees to expand the parade.

John Barnes recalled early mornings spent helping out with parade details and setting up grounds for the post-parade picnic at Wissahickon Creek.

“I remember getting up at 5 a.m. to decorate floats. We carried tables and port-a-potties to the woods and slept out there overnight,” Barnes said. “In the morning, we’d rush back for the parade to start. It was an all day affair.”

Barnes also reminisced about “carry your spouse” races and helping out with the parade while he was a Sunday school teacher.

Beverly Clarks of Pilgrim Presbyterian Church was one of many churchgoers that contributed to the parade. Clarks and fellow members joined in the holiday spirit by marching with decorated signs and props, including a giant gift meant to resemble Christ as a gift to humanity.

“The parade is all about us getting together and being a testament to the community,” Clarks said. “It’s a time for us to show unity.”

The parade kicked off at 9 a.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance at the corner of Manayunk and Lyceum avenues. Wissahickon Presbyterian Church led the parade, carrying a metal plaque that paid tribute to Samuel Lawson. 

Churches, organizations, vintage cars and live bands (Florence Broaddus Band, Good Timers Band and Cameron Highlanders) also marched in the parade which went on for a little over an hour. 

After the parade was over, Roxborough Baptist Church gave out free lemonade, water and pretzels. From that point, guests and church members were invited to picnics at different churches and parks. At 2 p.m., there was a freedom bell ringing at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. Roxborough Presbyterian Church then hosted a patriotic sing-a-long and bluegrass concert at 2:30 p.m.

The entire celebration included a raffle and a new decoration contest with a $100 prize, organized by Kathy Hack, the 21st Ward Fourth of July Association vice president. Association president Linda Marie Bell and treasurer Susan Hart also helped execute the parade.

This year, parade participants included: Wissahickon Presbyterian, St. Alban’s Episcopal, St. Mary’s Episcopal, St. David’s Episcopal, St. Timothy’s Episcopal, Green Lane United Methodist, First Baptist Manayunk, Roxborough Baptist, Ridge Avenue United Methodist, Leverington Presbyterian, Pilgrim Presbyterian, Roxborough Presbyterian, Galilee Baptist, New St. John the Baptist Parish, Salvation Army the Palestine-Roxborough Lodge 135 Free and Accepted Masons, Knights of Columbus, the Hattal-Taylor Post Color Guard, and music from Florence Broaddus Band, the Good Timers Band and the Cameron Highlanders.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.