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Zelienople Fourth of July parade 'good family time'

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Don Ridgley
The streets of Zelienople are always lined with people to enjoy the festive day.
Don Ridgley
The Harmony Volunteer Fire Department always has a strong presence during Zelienople's Fourth of July parade.
Don Ridgley
Uncle Sam always makes an appearance in the parade.

If your morning is free on July 4, there's a parade waiting — to watch or to march in.

For 25 years, the Zelienople Rotary Club has been sponsoring the town's Independence Day Parade. Years earlier, it had been organized by the Community Park Association.

Carroll Cooper, of Mussig Florist on N. Main Street, coordinates the effort for the club. A Rotarian herself for the last 16 years, Cooper, a hometown girl, puts it all together happily.

Over the years, people have called her to ask how they might participate.

“I tell them to just show up,” Cooper said. “We just ask for a little biography.”

Emcee Mike Hall always gives a brief introduction about entrants as they pass by.

Cooper remembers riding in the parade when she was just out of high school in the 1960s. Later, her own children took part on their bicycles.

“It's seeing the streets lined with people,” she said, of her personal satisfaction with the day, “and it's the joy of seeing how much they enjoy it.”

Once a stranger and his grandson drove into town on the holiday in an open convertible, Cooper said. Because of the closed streets, he had difficulty getting through town. Cooper did what any small town goodwill ambassador might: she invited them to join the parade. And they did.

Dean Measel, 87, and a Zelienople resident since 1950, has fond memories of the old-fashioned parade.

“I remember my parents, in-laws, out-laws and neighbors watching it from my front porch on Beaver Street,” he said.

Measel also used to direct parade traffic for many years. Marchers step off at the north end of High Street and proceed through town, ending at the community park. The American Legion always starts first, she said, followed by members of the Resurrection Band, all former school musicians. They keep the beat for all the other marchers.

In the past, the Jeep Club has participated as have the owners of classic cars. There have been tractors, fire trucks and cement mixers. One year, about 15 new trucks from JK Kennedy paraded through the usually quiet streets, she said. Since then, businesses are limited to two or three vehicles.

She recalled the days when people and their pets took part and when a ROTC unit from Freedom High School reenacted the Iwo Jima scene of the US Marine Corps War Memorial onboard a flatbed.

As the 90-minute parade goes by, judges rate the best of the marching units, dance studios, floats and tractors. Children with bikes all get a $1 coin.

Rain or shine, the parade goes on.

“I've never called it, but I've been rained on a lot,” Cooper joked.

After the horses pass by — they're always last, the crowd can walk to the community park to hear a concert by the Resurrection Band. At night, residents return to the upper end of town or the cemetery to view the fireworks.

“It's just a good family time,” Cooper said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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