Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Annual parade will highlight festivities in Takoma Park

by Mike Meno | Staff Writer

An eclectic assortment of international dancers, marching bands and attention-grabbing civic groups will blend hometown pride with the offbeat and unusual Friday for Takoma Park’s 119th Independence Day celebration.

With its theme of ‘‘Unity and Diversity,” this year’s celebration will kick off with a 10 a.m. parade down Carroll Avenue, followed by a 7:30 p.m. program of music and prizes at Takoma Park Middle School and fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

Belle Ziegler, a member of the Takoma Park Independence Day Committee, said this year’s celebration should easily live up to the Takoma Park event’s reputation as a colorful, one-of-a-kind experience.

‘‘Takoma Park is a real melting pot,” she said. ‘‘This year, we’ll have more costume groups I think than we’ve ever had.”

Among the highlights in this year’s parade will be a procession by students from Piney Branch Elementary School, who will celebrate their school’s international diversity with dance troupes and ethnic attire.

‘‘We plan to have as many different countries represented at Piney Branch Elementary School as possible,” said Principal Bertram Generlette.

Students who don’t wear international attire will instead don swim clothes and floats to celebrate the re-opening of the school’s pool, which finally received county and city funding this year after being closed for the entire school year.

‘‘It’s just such a wonderful, small-town celebration,” said Sue Katz Miller, the outgoing co-president of the Piney Branch PTA. ‘‘I love the off-beat, really local parts of the parade. I like it when that’s balanced with the rag-tag local stuff. That’s what makes it feel like the Takoma Park parade, and not just anybody’s parade. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate our diversity.”

Ziegler said many other local causes, from the anti-slots movement to energy conservation, will be represented. One of those will be a display about the Takoma Metro, the site of a longstanding townhouse development proposal that has been opposed by many residents.

Seth Grimes, a member of the group D.C.-Maryland Neighbors for Takoma Transit, said the plans are being kept under wraps until the parade, but promised that the display will be both surprising and entertaining.

‘‘We want to find a way to let everyone know that this opposition has not gone away,” he said. ‘‘... We want to do that in a fun and entertaining way, and so we thought the Fourth of July Parade was a good opportunity.”

The parade will be headed by Mayor Bruce Williams and Grand Marshal Ray Messick, a 56-year member of the Takoma Park Lions Club. Other officials in attendance will include U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington, state Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D), and state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D). Music will be performed by the MacMillan Pipe Bands, dc Motors, Mecca Temple No. 10 Drum and Bugle Corps, the Morning Few, D.C. Pan Jammers, Image Band, Trinidad and Tobago Steel Band and others.

Fireworks by Zambelli Fireworks Internationale will take place at Takoma Park Middle School around 9:30 p.m., following the evening program, which will include performances by Bele Bele Rhythm Collective and the Takoma Park Community Band, as well as the announcement of award winners from the parade.

Takoma Park July 4 parade and fireworks

The parade starts at the intersection of Carroll and Ethan Allen avenues and travels south on Carroll to Maple Avenue, then turns right on Maple to Sherman Avenue.

A program of music begins 7:30 p.m. at Takoma Park Middle School followed by fireworks. For more information about Takoma Park’s Fourth of July celebration, visit

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