CANONSBURG – Chairs decorated Canonsburg’s downtown Saturday, and crowds thronged the sidewalks Monday morning for the 59th Canonsburg Fourth of July Parade, the second-largest Independence Day parade in Pennsylvania.
“I’ve been doing this forever. I was in the first parade, I believe,” said Monica Saporita, of Peters Township.
“It’s bigger, a lot bigger, a lot more people,” Saporita, who marched as a Brownie and a Girl Scout before ending her parade career with the Chartiers-Houston marching band in 1968, said of this year’s parade. “It’s still a great way to spend the Fourth. It’s community coming together. I still look forward to seeing the Chartiers band.”
Folks clapped to the beat as the Chartiers-Houston High School marching band passed by, the first high school band to make an appearance in this year’s parade. The Canon-McMillan High School marching band ended the parade with a bang; spectators stood and danced to the tune of the blue and gold.
The two high school bands weren’t the only music that brought people to their feet. Upbeat polka music by the Valencic Brothers and Friends band and the International Button Box band rang through Canonsburg, and several dance organizations blared party tunes from the backs of vans while dancers stepped in time, tumbled, and sailed through the air to the crowd’s amazement.
“I enjoy everything about the Fourth of July. Look at this town: How can you miss it?” said Dylan Pareso, a 2012 Canon-McMillan grad who attended the parade with his family and children. This year’s parade was his six-month-old son Braxton’s first.
“You just have to pass traditions down,” Pareso said.
Tradition seemed to be this year’s theme. Edye Coen, a Houston resident who grew up attending the parade, introduced three of her six great-great grandchildren to Canonsburg’s big Fourth of July bash. And it was tradition that brought Mikiya Comfort, of Washington, to Canonsburg Monday morning.
Comfort said she’s always enjoyed Fourth festivities. This year, she was accompanied by her wife, Jenna Comfort, and their 7-week-old daughter, Journee, who seemed to enjoy the sights and sounds of the big parade.
“For us, starting her out early will help her have lots of memories to look back on,” said Mikiya Comfort.
Memories were certainly made Monday: Kids of all ages gawked as the 911th Airlift Wing flew low over the crowds at 10 a.m., signaling the start of the parade. Horses clip-clopped down the road; firetrucks sounded their sirens and candy rained through the air from glittery floats.
“He loves it. He’s ready for the candy,” laughed Nicole Killion, a Chartiers-Houston resident who has attended the parade her whole life.
Killion brought her son, Kane, to the parade for the first time this year.
“The whole atmosphere, the people,” are what makes the parade, Killion said.
Like Kane Killion, Mary Sabol attended the parade for the first time this year with her husband Andrew Sabol, a Canon-McMillan graduate who maintains the Big Mac Band is the best part of the day.
Mary was impressed.
“Straight parade energy,” she laughed. “Everybody’s into it.”
Cindy Naser was into it, too. She watched the units – there were 120 this year – roll by and kids dash for bubblegum and lollipops from her home on Pike Street.
Naser has attended the parade for “pretty much forever,” she smiled.
“We’ve got front row seats for the parade and fireworks,” Naser said. “The whole day is exciting.”
The excitement of it all – the large crowds, the folks cooking out, enjoying cold drinks and a variety of treats along the parade route, the floats and the music and the dancing – is catching.
“Watching everybody have fun ... is like my favorite thing,” said Jessica Campbell of McDonald, who brought her nieces to the parade.
This year’s emcee was local Fred Terling, who stepped into the role last year. The former emcee, singer and entertainer Bobby Shawn, served as the local grand marshal.
Local newscaster Elena LaQuatra was this year’s celebrity grand marshal.
For those unable to make it downtown, or those beating the heat, this year, the parade was livestreamed start to finish.
And even though she loves every moment, for Jessica Schulenberg of Canonsburg, the parade’s end is always a special moment. Every year she rushes into the street to pass a bag of cherries to her friend Beth Ludwin, who co-chairs the parade committee with her brother Jeff Shashinsky.
“She always asks, ‘How was it?’” Schulenberg laughed. “I get so proud of her.”
This parade is something Canonsburg is proud of, an event that brings people from near and far together for a morning of uninterrupted fun.
“Everybody’s laughing and smiling,” James Gregorakis, a former Four Coin and two-time grand marshal, said with a smile. “They have a good time.”
Following the parade, Town Park Pool was open at no charge, and folks cooled off in the blue waters, challenged themselves at the rock climbing wall and tossed around free floaties while bands performed in the Main Pavilion.
“It’s just great that the town gets together,” said Jeff Shinshasky. “It just explodes with fun and festivities all day.”
The Fourth of July came to a fantastic end at 10 p.m., when the Zambelli Fireworks show dazzled spectators downtown. The display was streamed live for the first time, so even those exhausted after a day of fun could tune in for the colorful last hurrah.