“Lots of smiling children in patriotic outfits,” Flynn said.
First of the 85 or so entries down the parade route were members of the Marietta Lions Club, passing out U.S. flags to the crowd.
Shirley Mayes of Marietta, a grandmother of four, perched in her lawn chair just off Glover Park as she watched the floats go by.
“Just the sign of the flag makes me have chills,” she said. “It’s just good to see everybody united.”
The parade kicked off at 10 a.m., beginning in the Roswell Street Baptist Church parking lot and proceeding west along Roswell to East Park Square, and along Cherokee Street to the Cobb County Police/911 Headquarters, a march of about 1.5 miles.
Beverly Thompson of Marietta, a great grandmother, said she’s been attending the parade so long she can’t remember when she started coming.
“We eat breakfast here and then we watch the parade, and we love the parade, and we sometimes have friends in the parade,” Thompson said. “Then we do all the shops. We stay here until about 4 in the afternoon. It’s a great way to celebrate our Independence Day.”
Her favorite part of the parade is the firefighters.
“I guess since 9/11 firemen have a totally different meaning,” she said.
Marietta Fire Chief Jackie Gibbs said Monday’s parade was a great one.
“I think it is so important to stop and celebrate our freedom and to remember the many sacrifices made so we can celebrate,” Gibbs said. “We had a great time. It is a good day in Marietta.”
Riding in the parade on one of her pedicabs with husband Brian, Cassandra Buckalew said this was her third year participating.
“I think this is the hottest year by far, definitely,” Buckalew said.
She thought turnout was a little lighter than last year because of the heat and the fact that it is not an election year.
Still, the outpouring of community support for the parade is moving, she said.
“There are so many people that line the streets and they are looking for a great float or something to really get them in the spirit especially now when it is so hot,” she said. “These are dedicated people that want to come out and see this parade.”
Flynn feels the same way.
“Marietta is an all American city and everything good and decent about it comes together on July 4,” Flynn said. “Riding in the parade fills me with a sense of community and American spirit.”
Dave and Marion Sayer of Powder Springs have been attending the parade since their daughters were babies.
“We used to stay down there at the National Cemetery and put them up on the wall because there was shade,” said Marion Sayer, now perched by Glover Park.
“Now they’re 20 and 18 and we couldn’t get them to drag out of bed this morning to come to the parade,” she said.
So they brought their dog, Bandit, instead.
Marietta business owner Charlie Beckett said he could have done without watching the various elected officials in the parade.
“I think they need to keep the politicians out of it,” Beckett said. “They have no need to be in the front of the parade. That’s not what the Fourth of July is all about. In my opinion, we don’t need politicians in parades.”
After the parade ended, residents enjoyed a festival on the Square with various arts and crafts booths, food concessions, giant inflatables and other entertainment.
Parks director Rich Buss estimated a turnout of between 40,000 to 50,000 for the festivities. The crowd was serenaded by musician Scott Thompson at noon followed by the National Bell Ringing, where the replica of the Liberty Bell in Glover Park was rung by Councilman Philip Goldstein and a number of children, who pulled the rope.
Johnny Fulmer, who owns a gift shop on the Square, said the event is great exposure for the merchants.
“There are very few cities that actually have a physical set up like we have here which is a park and stores around the Square,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of room to set up vendors both food vendors and arts and crafts, and it’s just small town USA. Can’t get any better than that.”
The day ended with rain, which ruined about 25 percent of the fireworks, but the city carried on, launching the remaining 75 percent or so Monday evening from behind First United Methodist Church.
Even in the rain, the fireworks lit up the night sky in an array of spectacular colors.