I can’t believe I missed Riverside’s July 4 celebration due to health concerns. It is probably the only, or one of the few, that I have ever missed.

While in high school, my best friend, Jean Kelly, and I would roll up our pajama legs, put on our trench coats, get some coffee, sit in one of the parks along Longcommon and cheer on the red, white and blue. 

There were lots of costume parades for children with prizes given. Bicycles were decorated trying to emphasize the theme of the parade. In those days, there was a theme and neutral judges to make the winning decision. All the activities were held at Big Ball Park. There was no food served, which was too bad, because some cool drinks would have been welcome.

Back then, the July 4 parade was run by the Riverside Jaycees, a young men’s group that no longer exists. The games were run by the Riverside Junior Woman’s Charity, which is still very active. 

At some point the events were taken over by the Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation and the parade route reversed. The reversal proved to be a good idea and allowed for more room in a cooler environment. 

The more room I refer to means vendors had more access, and it proved to be a hit. Who remembers the potato pancakes, which were hand cut by the ladies of one of the churches? The ladies really worked hard, and people didn’t mind standing in line. They were the best!

Still available are the hotdogs and bratwursts from one of the local churches. Nothing like a char-grilled brat with sauerkraut. This, of course, would have to go with a fresh-squeezed lemonade from the Boy Scouts. Bet many a boy had a sore arm the next day. 

Things went on quite well for the celebration, with a few changes here and there. Then around 2010 there came the threat of no Fourth of July for Riverside due to lack of funds. 

Well, that didn’t sit well with yours truly, who declared there would be a Fourth of July in Riverside. Then I got a whisper from Joe Ballerine, saying that if I were serious, he could help. Danny Jisa and Andy Daun were already in the works to save the Fourth. I asked Ben Sells and Rey Navarro to join, and so the Friends of the Fourth was born and continues to thrive through the generosity of the people of Riverside.