Seeing 4th of July History in Bristol, Rhode Island

Before moving to Rhode Island, I scoured the internet for every list and blog that spelled out what local Rhode Islanders did for fun, ate as staples, and went for coffee (Dunkin, obviously, but there are other great choices too! Coming soon to the blog.)

One of the  events I kept seeing pop up on lists about how great Rhode Island is was the Bristol 4th of July Celebration.

Now that I live in one of the 13 original colonies, I am surrounded by so much amazing American history! The very first 4th of July parade strolled down the streets of Bristol, Rhode Island in 1785! That's 231 years of patriotic parading... I just knew I had to be there.

Shane and I arrived in Bristol an hour or so before the parade was to start. As soon as we pulled off the highway, streets were covered in parked cars and peppered with pedestrians donning their red, white, and blue.

After a little walk, we found a great spectating spot near the water and passed the time until the parade was to start with our favorite pastime: people watching.

One thing this Southern Belle has learned in the few weeks of being a New England resident is this: people here are actually really nice they are just also in a really big hurry and will probably not be the first one to talk to a stranger; however; if said stranger (eh hem! Southern girl who can't help but talk to strangers over here!) initiates a nice hello/good morning/happy Fourth of July, they will be more than pleased to respond in kind. I can accept that!

Another thing I've learned so far: it actually does get hot in the Northeast. Don't let this smile fool you- there were sweat down my back and a sunburn brewing on my nose and knees.

Once the parade began, I kept finding myself a little emotional! It was so neat to see all of the floats and fellow patriots who came out to experience 231 years of history. I felt honored to witness it.

I waved enthusiastically at the parade-walkers, exchanged "Happy Fourth!" sentiments (albeit my 'r' was the only one pronounced), and chatted with Shane about each piece of history that passed us. There were memorial floats, replicas of air crafts and memorabilia, real muskets, and authentic garb galore.


The floats weren't strictly from Bristol either! Many were from surrounding communities but others were from Minnesota, Texas, even the Bahamas. You certainly don't have to be from the town that established the first 4th of July parade to celebrate with them.


I kept desperately wanting to know who all these people who were walking in and watching the parade were. Did they live in Bristol or come in from a nearby city, like we did? Had this been their family tradition for as long as they could remember or did this day mark the beginning of a new tradition-like I hope it would for Shane and me? Did they find themselves overwhelmed with emotions and American pride or was it just something to do on their day off from work? Was the parade the highlight of their day or were they heading to another celebration afterwards?

As floats passed and people waved, I also began to do some homework. These were businesses and causes I wanted to learn more about and support. Were some of my future friends on these floats? Would I be able to hop on one next year? I took notes of a few organizations that I may like to join and told Shane that my goal was to indeed participate in the parade in the future. I want to embrace everything I can about being a new Rhode Islander and seeing this parade seemed like the perfect initiation!

I have been told that Bristol, Rhode Island is a great place to visit on the other 364 days of the year, as well. If the gorgeous streets we walked down to and from the parade are any indication, I would say that that's probably right! I am looking forward to our next drive to Bristol to experience everything else the historically beautiful town has to offer.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite sights of the day. Parading is tiring work for a wee little patriot!