In DC, Fourth of July celebrations bring renewed sense of normalcy

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined a number of local organizations in the Independence Day at Palisades Parade. (WTOP/Acacia James)
Red Truck Lemonade was one of many companies and organizations that participated in the Independence Day at Palisades Parade. (WTOP/Acacia James)
Cars and trucks in the parade were covered in Fourth of July decorations. (WTOP/Acacia James)
Fraternidad Diablada Boliviana — a Bolivian dance organization — took part in the parade. (WTOP/Acacia James)
D.C. full-service music store Middle C Music performed in the parade. (WTOP/Acacia James)
As celebrations got underway elsewhere in the District, people poured onto the National Mall in anticipation of the main event — fireworks on the Mall. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
Brycen Gulick brought 80 chairs he and his dad set up for their friends and family who are coming in mostly from Kansas to watch the show. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)
Free ice cream was given out on the National Mall for visitors. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)
Food trucks lined the National Mall as part of the holiday festivities. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)
Fireworks on the National Mall are set to start at 9:09 p.m. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

The National Mall and the rest of the D.C. area kicked of Fourth of July celebrations Sunday with parades and music ahead of the main event — fireworks on the Mall.

Between D.C., Maryland and Virginia, there were plenty of events lined up to commemorate the first Fourth of July free of COVID-19 restrictions. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined a slew of organizations, bands and local businesses at one of them — the Independence Day at Palisades Parade.

The parade has been a staple of Fourth of July celebrations in the District for decades, but it was canceled last year because of the pandemic.

The celebration started at the corner of Whitehaven Parkway Northwest and MacArthur Boulevard Northwest and made its way to the Palisades Recreation Center. Ethel Taylor, owner of Doggie Washerette in Northwest D.C., took part in the parade with her therapy dog, Joy.

“When we had time and before the COVID, of course, we participated in a lot of parades, so we’re happy today the parades are starting again,” she said.

John Snedden, owner of Rockland’s Barbecue and Grilling Company, said it was special to be able to take part in this particular parade.

“We’ve done this parade for now 32 years, and so last year not having the parade was really, it just didn’t feel right,” Snedden said. “What a beautiful day today and just wonderful to see everyone out here and what a pleasure to be able to celebrate.”

While that parade and others, including the Capitol Hill Community Parade in D.C. and the City of Fairfax annual parade in Virginia, started the festivities, preparation was already underway early in the day for the big finish.

Even though Independence Day fireworks on the National Mall didn’t start until 9:09 p.m., Brycen Gulick was out in front of the Capitol more than six hours early to claim his real estate for the show.

Gulick and his dad set up 80 chairs on the Mall’s lawn for family and friends coming up from Kansas to see the spectacle.

“It’ll be our first time doing this, so we’re excited to have everyone here,” Gulick said. “We’re excited to have a bunch of Kansans out here and experience the Fourth of July on the Mall.”

By about 7 p.m., thousands of people were camped on the National Mall for the show, including Barbara Jirka.

“It’s a gorgeous day, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve had too many other reasons not to be here, so this year there was no reason not to be. It’s gorgeous,” she said.

She’s seen the fireworks before, but never up close and personal.

“It’s been probably like six years ago, and it was on a rooftop event. It was really nice, it was really cool, but this time I get to be in the crowd with all the people at the base of the Washington Monument, that’s what I really wanted to do,” Jirka said.

For her, being able to finally get to see the show from the Mall is a sign of a turning point in the pandemic.

“It’s feeling like it’s getting back to normal again,” Jirka said. “We can get out, we can see people, we can do the picnics we used to have and really start planning to be out. It’s nice that they had the fireworks for a reason to get out and do something.”

WTOP’s Acacia James and Valerie Bonk contributed to this report. 

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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