LEWISBURG — Kevin Bittenbender points at a plaque on the north side of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on University Avenue and refers to the names behind the push for its restoration as “the magnificent seven.”
“It only took seven people to make a difference and it still holds true today,” said Bittenbender, president, Union County Veterans 4th of July Committee.
The war memorial’s rededication on July 4, 1995, sparked the beginning of the annual 4th of July Parade. The 25th iteration kicks off ahead of Independence Day at 10 a.m. June 29. Leading the procession will be members of the original parade committee.
Allen Walter volunteered with the parade committee the past 20 years. He thought back on its beginnings.
“It’s grown. Graham (Showalter) started out small and he kept building it,” Walter said of one of the parade’s original organizers.
Pat Marolo is a six-year volunteer with the parade committee. Her love of the parade spurred her to get involved. Committee members plan the event over the course of 10 months. It’s grown more difficult as the number of volunteers dwindled.
“An awful lot of people in this area have no idea what it takes to put this parade on. I know I didn’t,” Marolo said.
The celebration this year is a full-day affair, trimmed from the week-long exposition it had grown to over the years.
Returning this year are train rides on the Union County Industrial Railroad. A North Shore Rail Company train will tote passengers south from Hufnagle Park to Winfield for a pair of one-hour round trips at 1 and 3 p.m. Tickets are available online only and must be purchased in advance. Follow the links at www.unioncountyveterans4thofjuly.com.
“People love it. It’s a cool thing. How many times do you get to ride a train these days?” said Phyllis Marquette, parade committee secretary.
Something new this year is a free yoga seminar for veterans and their families. Catelyn Troxell will lead the session beginning at 1 p.m. in front of Bucknell’s Alumni House on University Avenue. The general public may attend, too, for a small donation.
McDonald’s Restaurants are raising funds for the parade. Proceeds from Slushie sales throughout the month of June in Mifflinburg and at the Lewisburg location’s grand opening June 29 will be donated toward the celebration.
The official start to the celebration is actually June 25 with the Freedom Bike Ride. Participants can ride each leg or participate at specific stops. This year, the first day’s ride is in Washington, D.C., followed by the Gettysburg Battlefields, Logantown, Pa., Susquehanna Valley and finally, from Mifflinburg to Lewisburg. Visit the ride’s dedicated page on Facebook for details.
The parade, of course, is the old standby. It forms beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the former high school, moves east on Market Street to Third Street, then south to Bucknell University President's Grove. It attracts about 250 entrants, on average. Registration is closed but there are exceptions for veterans: any veteran can register up to the day of.
A Veterans’ Recognition Ceremony begins at 12:15 p.m. followed by a picnic and band concerts by Fralinger String Band, American Originals Fife & Drum Corps and Hanover Lancers Drum & Bugle Corps. All of this is at the Grove.
Weis Markets on Route 15 is the site of a Jeep Jamboree starting at 2 p.m. followed by a block party at 5 p.m. featuring the Becky Blue Band. The celebration moves to Wolfe Field at 7 p.m. with a live performance by the Uptown Music Collective.
Fireworks finish things off beginning about 9:30 p.m.