July 3, 2008

In Racine, celebrating the 4th starts early...

Our first big parade: June 22, 1917

And so it began... Racine's tradition of July 4th parades.

Above is a picture of perhaps Racine's first big parade, from 1917; not on July 4 of that year but rather on June 22. What were they celebrating as they marched down Washington Avenue? No idea, and neither did Sally Orth of the Racine Heritage Museum, who welcomed me Thursday night during First Friday, while a video loop of old celebrations played.

And, yes, we knew it was neither July 4 nor the Friday of First Friday ... but in Racine the celebration of Independence Day starts early and supercedes newer traditions like Downtown's art gallery walk. Even before the community paraded for the reasons we all know today, Sally explained, Racine celebrated for another: the parade below, from July 4, 1941, was the Goodwill Parade -- established to foster good will between the city's employers and employees. Whatever, right? (Headlining the show at the Venetian: I Wanted Wings, starring Ray Milland and Veronica Lake. "Story follows the training and personal lives of three recruits in the Army Air Corps --- a wealthy playboy, a college jock and an auto mechanic. Love interest is supplied by a female photographer and a sultry blonde." Sharing the double bill in those days of two features for one quarter: The Cowboy and the Blonde, starring George Montgomery and Mary Beth Hughes.)

Today, of course, it's patriotism front and center. Friday night was its usual blend of shopping, wandering into art galleries, and a variety of music on Monument Square and Main and Sixth Streets -- and in some of the stores as well. But this week's event carried an extra fashion dimension: flags everywhere... in window displays, in children's hands and on clothing. Below, some of the folks we spotted enjoying First Frid... um, July 3 in Downtown Racine.

Cheryl McCrary sang patriotic songs and hymns...

This visitor was dressed in flags, head to toe...

Brad Harring wore one of his patriotic shirts ...
(don't worry: he has another for tomorrow)

Annette Bottoni with red, white and blue-ornamented hair

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