Kids’ parade kicks off family Fourth
BY KATIE SHEPHERD
THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Decked out in stars and stripes, more than a hundred families, community organizations and residents marched around downtown Fredericksburg to kick off Independence Day celebrations.
The patriotic parade, part of the all-day Heritage Festival, included blue-and-white-striped cheerleaders, a Boy Scout troop and even some fully robed professional martial arts instructors performing taekwondo demonstrations.
Chants of “USA, USA” throughout the parade reminded the crowd of onlookers what the day’s festivities were about: celebrating America.
After marching in the parade, members of Master Lee’s Martial Arts took a place among the vendors lining the streets of downtown in the Festival of the Streets.
They had piles of wooden blocks stacked up, ready to be broken in their martial arts performances.
“We’re here to celebrate with everyone else,” said Liz Ellis, who was helping with Master Lee’s group of taekwondo performers.
“The weather is really holding up nicely and we’re just having fun,” she added.
The sun was shining down over the festivities, but with a morning high of just 75 degrees, it was pleasant and warm.
Vendors who had set up along Sophia, Charlotte and Hanover streets sold various trinkets, like birdhouses made of gourds and hand-crafted jewelry. Wooden rocking chairs and clothing were also among the goods festival goers could purchase.
On Sophia Street, children were lining up to throw bright green softballs at a target on a dunking booth.
The proceeds from the booth benefited the Rappahannock–Fredericksburg Rotary Club, which puts together a dunking booth every year for the July 4 celebrations.
A rotating cast of well-known locals volunteered to subject themselves to frequent dunking, including Jeff Small, clerk of the Fredericksburg Circuit Court and City Council members Brad Ellis and Matt Kelly.
Some of the children taking merciless aim at the dunking target were more successful than others, but the booth operator and chairman of public image for the Rotary Club Ken Tomayko always made sure every kid succeeded in dunking someone at least once.
Attendees who craved a little snack could count on vendors up anddown Sophia Street to have everything from Polish sausages to funnel cake and shaved ice.
Although the sun wasn’t too harsh, tents along the road provided a stream of mist for families and dogs to cool off.
Children were everywhere underfoot at the festival, relishing the many activities aimed at kids including a bounce house and face painting.
A little farther along Sophia Street at the City Dock, rafts started rolling in on the Rappahannock River around 11:40 a.m. as part of the annual River Raft Race. Fourteen rafts entered the race in two categories, inflatable rafts and Huck Finn rafts, makeshift vessels constructed of any floating material.
“In the past we’ve had rafts of beer cans,” said Eamonn Devaney, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the Fredericksburg Jaycees.
Devaney announced the first-place winners as they floated past the finish line at the city dock.
Bryan Hofmann and his crew of four finished in first place for the inflatable raft category. Bob Smith managed the same feat in the Huck Finn category, part of a four-person team who rowed their craft to victory. First place winners received a trophy and a $50 gift card.
Some rafts also receive specialty prizes such as “most patriotic” or “we didn’t think you would make it but ” Those winners don’t have to finish first, they just have to finish the race as the most unlikely or the most spirited.
For anyone looking to venture beyond the streets of downtown Fredericksburg, shuttles were taking people to the Ferry Farm’s Fabulous 4th of July.
Katie Shepherd 540/374-5417