Bristol 4th of July anticipation: ‘This is my Christmas time’

Photo: WPRI-TV

BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — Bristol is putting the finishing touches on preparations for an annual event that is recognized across the country.

Bristol’s 4th of July Celebration, the oldest continuous celebration of its kind in the United States, dates back to 1785. Just about everyone in the town has some kind of involvement, whether it’s marching in the parade, preparing the route or even just watching from a front porch.

Tammy Vincent, owner of The Silver Dollar, said she is a newcomer to Bristol and that there is no other place she would rather be for the 4th.

“I can’t wait. This is my Christmas time,” she said. “I live right in downtown and there’s just nothing more patriotic than Bristol. It’s awesome.”

“Bristol on the Fourth of July, it’s the only place to be,” said Tom Andrade, who lives along the parade route.

For Andrade and his girlfriend Nicole Komiega, there’s no better holiday.

“We live for the Fourth of July,” Komiega said. “That’s our excitement in town, that’s what it’s all about.”

The two started renting a house on Hope Street around three years ago from some friends who also happen to love the Fourth of July just as much.

“You live for it,” said David Sylvaria. “Each and every year. I work in the maritime industry and I always say I’d miss Christmas before I’d miss the Fourth of July.”

“It’s all about family, friends,” his wife Chelsea Sylvaria added.

Living along the 2.5-mile parade route is a badge of honor for people in Bristol.

“I don’t think we sleep the night before,” Komiega said.

“I definitely don’t sleep,” Andrade added.

“If you’re from Bristol, it’s something that you probably want to do,” said David Sylvaria. “As a kid you think about it, as you get up and grow older you hope that you can do it.”

And if you’re lucky enough to snag some real estate, it might even bring out some long lost friends.

“You just have to accept it,” Chelsea Sylvaria said through a laugh. “You’re going to have people at your house, you’re going to have people you don’t see. It’s just part of Bristol.”

“It gets bigger every year,” her husband added.

“And you love it. It doesn’t matter,” Chelsea said.

The parade is set to step off at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Before that, parade volunteers will be putting everything in place, from ‘no parking’ signs to seemingly countless flags and banners in red, white and blue all along the two-mile route.

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Despite the excitement in the air, it’s not all about having fun.

“It’s still work,” said Lieutenant Scott Illingworth of the Bristol Fire Department. “We’re here as first responders – though it is a lot of fun, for anything like this, you have to be prepared. That’s what we do, 365 days a year, we train.”

Illingworth advises paradegoers to take the basic precautions needed to stay safe in the summer heat. The lieutenant said people should seek the shade, stay hydrated and “you know—don’t do stupid stuff. Fireworks are always a problem,” Illingworth added.

Thousands like Vincent are expected to line the streets.

“It’s a beautiful place to be, any time of year, but especially now,” Vincent said.

According to organizers, it’s crucial to set out and arrive early if you go to Bristol’s 4th of July celebration. Parking is basically anywhere you can find it, organizers said.