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China Grove Parade has patriotic spirit

The announcement over the loud speaker quieted the crowd.

“Find a flag. Flags are everywhere so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one. Take off your hats as we honor our country.”

The announcer didn’t ask, but all red-blooded Americans at the China Grove Fourth of July Parade also placed theirs hands over their hearts as they recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

“That was such a nice touch to the parade because, after all, that’s what the Fourth of July is all about – celebrating our independence and honoring those who serve,” said Margaret Stewart. “It was a stirring moment.”

Stewart and her husband, Henry, have been attending the China Grove Fourth of July Parade for about six years so they know all the ropes. They left Troy about 8:30 a.m. Saturday to beat the crowd and claim a shady spot in downtown China Grove.

“The barbecue always goes fast, and there’s a long line so we went over around nine o’clock and got ours and put it in the warmer,” Stewart said, laughing. “We had a table set up with snacks to tide us over until after the parade.”

Like the Stewarts and friends, many people staked a claim to a spot and held on to it after the parade when picnic cloths came out like ants from a bed.

“The China Grove Parade is a happening,” said Marlise Andrews from Montgomery. “And we just happened to hear about it. This is our first year, and we’ll probably make it a family tradition. I can’t really say what it is that’s so much fun. The parade was … different and what I liked was so many flags. It was all about country. An older man marched with a flag and a little boy marched with a flag and the people on horses had flags and flags waved from cars and motorcycles and lawnmowers. It was a real Fourth of July Parade.”

Stewart said the free watermelon was a real treat and so was the entertainment.

“They keep adding things and there was entertainment everywhere you went,” she said. China Grove is where I want to be on the Fourth of July. It’s like it’s supposed to be. You see old friends and meet new ones. A real celebration is what it is.”

Diane LaFountaine, a parade organizer, said the parade was the biggest in the 10-year history of the parade that began as a neighborhood parade with children riding their decorated bikes down the road.

“Last year we had about 150 entries, and I’d guess that we’ve got 200 or more this year,” she said. “There has been a lot of interest and enthusiasm surrounding the parade, and I can’t believe the number of people that are here. They have come from everywhere, and we just appreciate the fact that people enjoy coming to China Grove and that so many make it their Fourth of July destination every year.”

At the watermelon stand in front of Dean’s Store, there was a tangle of tractors, wagons, horses, motorcycles, lawn mowers, bicycles, unicycles, tricycles, boats, cars and trucks. Some trying to go forward, some backward, some wanting to turn in, others wanting to turn around and some had stopped and planned to stay that way.

Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas surveyed the mass of humanity and machines and laughed.

“People are here to have a good time and they appreciate the opportunity to spend the Fourth of July with friends and family,” he said. “Even with all the traffic we’ve never had a bit of trouble. People come to enjoy each other and celebrate this great country of ours and nobody wants to do anything to spoil it. That’s a tribute to all who come.”