Before 8:45 a.m. 6-year-old Alexis Peirce was outside riding her red trick bike practicing for the Knollwood July Fourth Parade. This was the 18th year for the parade, but Alexis’ first time in it.
Her dad, Clayton Peirce, 31, said they moved to the neighborhood in September and he was pleased with the opportunity.
“I think it’s fantastic,” the petroleum landman said. “I think it’s great that a neighborhood community can get together like this and really celebrate a special occasion and make a big deal out of it.”
While some residents were still asleep, the children and adults of Knollwood, which is off Old Jacksonville Highway just south of Tyler city limits, were preparing to mark this country’s birthday in style.
Children rode to the parade route’s starting point on bicycles decked out with American flags, red, white and blue wire garland, stars and stuffed animals. Pets even joined in the fun.
PASSING ON A TRADITION
The parade is the brainchild of Diane Knowles, a school counselor, who started it as a way to carry on a tradition she experienced in her childhood in Sacramento.
Every Fourth of July, her father cooked breakfast, specifically blueberry pancakes, for the family in the park. A World War II veteran, he taught his family about patriotism through his actions.
The 11 grandchildren then went to their grandparents’ house after breakfast. Ms. Knowles said her grandparents must have been trying to figure out what to do with all the kids when they decided to have a parade.
The kids decorated everything they could find in the garage and paraded around that block. The event grew from there.
As an adult, Ms. Knowles decided to carry on the parade tradition in Knollwood when her own kids — twins — turned 2 in 1995.
“I passed out fliers to everyone, and I had seen these little flags that were put out by a Realtor, and she gave us the first flag,” Ms. Knowles said.
To this day, she and her children, who are now 20, pass out fliers and put American flags in the yards.
The Flint-Gresham Fire Department joined the fifth year and has participated ever since. They lead the parade. This year a fire truck from Whitehouse also joined in the mix.
“I thought of this to pass on the tradition to my children and because my father taught us to be patriotic,” she said. “He never spoke about his experiences in World War II, but we knew that they were traumatic, and it’s a lot in honor of my father, but also to help people understand that patriotism is important and to maybe help restore some of those values that we seem to be losing.”
STARTING THE PARADE
Kaleigh, 7, and Maddie Guevara, 6, and Kiera Oliver, 6, who are sisters and half-sisters, respectively, rolled a wagon full of their stuffed animals and dolls. Some of the famous toy friends included Simba the lion, the Coca-Cola polar bears, Care Bears and Cinderella dolls.
The toys sat inside with red and blue star wire garland and American flags accenting the wagon.
The event serves as a reunion for some people as much as it does a celebration of this nation.
Rivie Aiken, 90, has been coming to the parade since it began, her daughter Karla Hutchinson, 46, of Flint, said. After Ms. Aiken sat down in a folding chair along the curb, she just watched the scene, smiling, as she looked at all those in attendance.
“Seeing the children and to hear everybody talk and everyone’s laughing and happy, and the children riding the … (bicycles), I just really enjoy (it),” said Ms. Aiken, who was wearing an American-flag patterned button-down shirt and red pants.
Earl Roe, 80, has been coming to the event since it started. His wife, Jean, 75, has come for 16 years. Mrs. Roe said it’s important to celebrate our independence and the freedom we have as Americans.
Roe said July Fourth also serves as a day to honor the Armed Forces that gave us our freedom.
Once the firefighters arrived in five vehicles, Ms. Knowles, who was wearing patriotic clothes and red, white and blue earrings that looked like fireworks, addressed the group over a loudspeaker.
“Welcome everyone to the 18th annual Fourth of July Parade,” she said. She thanked the firefighters for their faithfulness, reminded everyone to stay for cookies, lemonade and ice cream afterward, and encouraged people to have fun and be safe.
“All right,” she said. “Start the sirens. Let’s go. Thanks guys. See you next year.”
As the sirens blared and the fire trucks took off, kids and adults followed behind. And the parade continued around the neighborhood reminding everyone to celebrate the occasion.
“I think Fourth of July is a time to remind people to band together for the betterment of our country,” Ms. Knowles said after the parade rounded a corner. “All they have to do is turn on the news and see how fortunate” we are.
The Tyler Jaycees celebrated its 50th annual fireworks show Thursday evening.
For Bryan Miller, of Tyler, and his wife, the fireworks show is a 27-year tradition. On Thursday, they unpacked some chairs and a blanket inside Lindsey Park with their children, who range from 2 to 27, and their grandchild, to watch the show.
Miller said the tradition started after the birth of their first child and has become an annual get-together to celebrate the nation’s independence.
“As a former Marine, (the Fourth of July) is a day of respect and celebration for how we are able to be here today, and those who fought and died for us,” he said.
Around the fields of Lindsey Park, families and friends played Frisbee, kicked soccer balls and threw footballs, as others set up chairs, grilled and enjoyed cooler-than-normal temperatures.
Bobby Jones, president of the Tyler Jaycees, said 8,000 to 9,000 spectators were expected to fill the park and enjoy more than 30 minutes of fireworks. The money goes toward Tyler Jaycees events, such as Easter egg hunt for the blind, its haunted house and other community functions.
Cars were creating lines down Spur 364 to get into the park before dusk.
“It’s good to see the Tylerites come out and enjoy the show,” he said. “We hope it’s a good time for everybody.”