Western Pa. celebrates Fourth of July at cookouts, parades, firework displays

| Thursday, July 4, 2013, 11:54 p.m.

Fourth of July parades should be done once a week, said Eve Fuchs.

“It's neighborly, it's community, and it means something,” said Fuchs, 76, of Brentwood as she watched the borough's Independence Day parade on Thursday. “This is the only time we see the older veterans. They deserve our recognition. We should do this once a week or just say, ‘Thank you,' when you see someone in uniform — police and fireman too, any public service. What would we do without them?”

Thousands gathered in Brentwood and in dozens of communities throughout Western Pennsylvania to watch fireworks, have cookouts and enjoy Independence Day parades. They waved American flags, cheered military veterans and sported red, white and blue.

“It's great to see the community come together like this,” said Karen Kwolek, 54, who watched the parade outside her Brentwood home. “I would like to think the country is unified all the time. So much is going on in the rest of the world; people need to realize how good a country this is.”

A 1:35 p.m. Pirates game drew 35,328 fans to PNC Park, filling North Shore parking lots by early afternoon. State police cited five people for underage drinking in the lots near the stadium before and during the game.

Crowds filled the Point and the North Shore for the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta and the EQT Flashes of Freedom Fireworks Fantasia display.

Chapree Cox-Smith, 24, of Charleroi said she senses more overall American unity on the Fourth than at other times. People gather more publicly for the patriotic celebration than they might on a religious holiday, she said.

“I like that it brings people together,” said Cox-Smith, who took a break from the regatta boat races on the Allegheny River to move to a cooler spot on the Monongahela River.

Nearby, David Remaley, 70, and Joyce Remaley, 72, of Penn Hills said they were heartened to see their grandchildren's growing interest in American traditions. On the Fourth especially, David Remaley said, he's noticing a greater cultural shift toward patriotism.

“I think the younger people are getting back to it,” he said.

In Latrobe, thousands of spectators lined the parade route, part of a weeklong celebration to be capped off by a fireworks display at Legion Keener Park. There, people said the country feels more unified on patriotic holidays but large challenges exist. Walt Johnson, 67, of Ligonier said job creation remains a challenge.

“We're coming back, slowly but surely,” Johnson said.

Others disagreed.

“I think the whole country is in bad shape,” said Rick Phillabaum, 53, of Latrobe. “We don't have any leadership at all. … I'd like to see our politicians work for the people instead of themselves.”

Staff writer Adam Smeltz contributed to this report. Bobby Kerlik and Kari Andren are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Kerlik at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com. Reach Andren at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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